Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls on Biden to address 'untenable' migrant crisis

J.B. Pritzker, governor of Illinois, is calling on the Biden administration to do more to address the migrant crisis. File Photo by Andrew Harrer/UPI

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling on President Joe Biden to coordinate a federal response to address the "untenable" migrant crisis, becoming the latest influential Democrat to voice criticism of the White House's efforts to stymie the surging flow of asylum seekers to their states and cities.

The migrant crisis has been a plague of the Biden administration, which has attempted to tackle the issue from targeting corruption in South and Central American nations to implementing strict immigration policy that forces migrants and asylum seekers to apply for refuge prior to arriving at the U.S. border.

Despite the moves, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encounters have been on the rise, with a monthly record 304,162 encounters registered in August, according to government statistics.

In protest of the Biden administration's border policies, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2022 to bus migrants to Democratic-led states and cities, including Chicago. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also adopted a similar policy.

A release from Abbott's office late last month shows Texas has shipped more than 45,500 asylum seekers out of state.

Pritzker said in a three-page letter to the president Monday that in the 13 months since the first bus arrived in Abbott's "dehumanizing attempt to score political points," more than 15,000 have been transported to Chicago but the busloads are coming at increasingly higher rates, overwhelming Illinois' ability to provide them with aid, creating an untenable situation.

"Unfortunately, the welcome and aid Illinois has been providing to these asylum seekers has not been matched with support by the federal government," Pritzker said in the letter.

"Most critically, the federal government's lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation for Illinois."

He said Illinois has spent more than $330 million on humanitarian aid, but they are running out of accommodations, with people forced to sleep in police stations and on sidewalks.

The Democratic governor is calling on the Biden administration to implement a series of changes that start with assigning a White House employee to oversee efforts to address the border crisis and work with cities and states.

He is also asking it to waive fees for Temporary Protected Status applications, arguing they are prohibited to applicable asylum seekers to receive authorization to work, which Pritzker also asked to be expedited.

Increased logistical coordination and data collection as well as financial support to states, local governments and NGOs for housing, food and social services were also included in Pritzker's list of requests, among others.

"Our nation is large and resourceful. Allowing just one state to lay the burden upon a certain few states run by Democrats is untenable," he said.

"We are a nation that has welcomed immigrants and refugees since our founding, and we have done so in a bipartisan manner. It cannot be that just a few cities and states should now bear that cost of this effort alone."

Pritzker's voice now joins other prominent Democrats who have increased pressure on the Biden administration to do more to address the record numbers of asylum seekers and migrants entering the country.

Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams called on the federal government for help as more than 116,000 asylum seekers had arrived in the city since the spring.

"New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to," he said. "I don't see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City."

In early August, Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts declared a state of emergency due to the rising numbers of migrants and migrant families arriving in the state.

A White House spokesperson, in a statement to The Hill, blamed the situation on Republicans stonewalling legislative efforts to address the problem.

The spokesperson said the Biden administration has given communities $1 billion in grant funding to address the influx, but Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"House Republicans continue to block the reform the immigration system needs and the $4 billion we requested to address the immediate needs of [the Department of Homeland Security] to safely and humanely manage the Southwest Border and support communities across the country," the spokesperson said.