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McLean County EMA director says the state plans to process migrants

Woman smiling and standing in front of a round seal painted on a wall. The seal includes the words 'Emergency Management Agency McLean County.'
Eric Stock
McLean County Emergency Management Agency Director Cathy Beck.

The head of McLean County emergency management says if a busload of migrants were to come to McLean County, they would be sent to Chicago for processing.

The county board will consider a proposal Thursday to preemptively deny funding for any migrant services.

County Emergency Management Agency [EMA] Director Cathy Beck said the state's guidance calls for migrants to be transported to the new migrant intake center in Chicago to get essential services. Caseworkers would help them get to a final destination. That could mean family, friends or to a shelter.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency [IEMA] spokesperson Kevin Sur told WGLT a final draft of the guidelines is still under review, but indicated it calls for communities to find transportation for the migrants to get to the intake center.

The Illinois Department of Human Services recently opened the center at 800 S. Desplaines St. in Chicago. It’s located near a transportation hub that includes Union Station and the city’s Greyhound bus station.

Migrants have already been staying there for weeks. Hundreds are sleeping in buses at the site.

Beck said a committee of government and social service agencies in McLean County is trying to figure out what happens if the intake center can't immediately take the migrants. She said it's not clear what the committee would do.

“There’s a whole bunch of what’s and if’s and we just can’t plan for every single what and if ahead of time. It’s something we are going to have to do when it happens,” said Beck, adding that EMA would coordinate transportation to get any migrants to the intake center.

Beck would not comment on the county board proposal to ban funding for migrants, but said it would be a life-safety issue if the community was unable to provide housing for those who need it.

“If we need to keep them overnight or something because of not being able to get the transportation right then and there due to weather or whatever else, we would look to the social service agencies to assist with food and basic-like things,” Beck said. “Housing is going to be an issue.”

The state also is putting up heated tents next door to the intake center in Chicago. They are expected to be ready by the end of January. WBEZ reports the tents would be for social services, not housing.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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