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Pritzker joins Democratic governors asking Biden, Congress for migrant aid and to fix ‘outdated’ immigration system

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, seen at a conference earlier this month, joined eight other Democratic governors in asking Congress and the Biden administration to finalize a border security agreement and release funds to cities taking in asylum-seekers.
Anthony Vazquez
/
Chicago Sun Times
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, seen at a conference earlier this month, joined eight other Democratic governors in asking Congress and the Biden administration to finalize a border security agreement and release funds to cities taking in asylum-seekers.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday joined the Democratic governors of eight other states in asking President Joe Biden and Congress to “quickly negotiate” a border security agreement that includes funding for states and cities that are receiving thousands of migrants.

“As Governors representing over 100 million Americans, we write to call on Washington to work together to solve what has become a humanitarian crisis,” reads the letter, led by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“The sustained arrival of individuals seeking asylum and requiring shelter and assistance, due to lack of Congressional action on infrastructure and policies, can only be addressed with federal organizational support and funding to meet the public safety and humanitarian needs of our local communities,” it said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, shown presenting her 2025 executive state budget last week, led the letter.
Associated Press
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, shown presenting her 2025 executive state budget last week, led the letter.

Congress sent Biden a short-term funding bill last week that funds federal agencies until early March. The measure came as negotiations continue on another spending package that would provide funds for Ukraine and Israel and help secure the U.S.-Mexico border. Biden is seeking a $110 billion package.

The Democratic governors’ letter said political machinations are delaying much-needed help in their states and cities — and they urged the passage of Biden’s supplemental request, which they called a “minimum level of funding.”

“While political motivations continue to delay the negotiations, our economy, states and localities are bearing the brunt of the shortcomings of the existing immigration system,” the letter reads.

“Therefore, as you return to Washington to resume work on critical federal funding measures, we strongly urge Congress and the Administration to quickly negotiate an agreement on a border security legislative package that includes federal coordination and decompression at the southern and northern borders; federal funding for both border and interior states and cities receiving new arrivals; and a serious commitment to modernizing our immigration system in the United States.”

In asking for help, the governors also wrote that “it is clear our national immigration system is outdated and unprepared to respond to this unprecedented global migration.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s $16.7 billion 2024 budget included only $150 million for a migrant crisis now costing the city $40 million a month. The mayor said he budgeted the $150 million to keep political heat on the state and federal governments to do more to help Chicago with a crisis that he asserted no major city is equipped to handle.

And Pritzker last year announced an additional $160 million in state funding to help manage the crisis, with $30 million of that going toward the city’s intake center.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks about achieving economic goals during a news conference Jan. 10.
Anthony Vazquez
/
Chicago Sun Times
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks about achieving economic goals during a news conference Jan. 10.

Since August 2022, Illinois has provided or committed more than $638 million to address the migrant crisis, including $115 million in direct funding to the city. The additional $160 million went toward supporting the city’s migrant crisis but was not given directly to the city.

About 35,000 migrants have arrived in the city since August 2022. About 14,300 are in 28 city shelters.

Earlier this month, Pritzker sent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a sweeping letter urging him to halt busing migrants to Chicago during the dangerous winter storm gripping the Midwest and to show “mercy for the thousands of people who are powerless to speak for themselves.”

Abbott’s office rejected the plea, saying it would continue to send migrants until Biden secures the border.

The letter is signed by Hochul, Pritzker, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Tina Sfondeles is the chief political reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times
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