Chicago, IL

Mayor Brandon Johnson Starts Suing Operators of 'Rogue Buses' Bringing Migrants to Chicago

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Chicago's Mayor Johnson intensifies enforcement efforts to decrease migrant Influx as winter challenges loom

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Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration in Chicago has initiated legal proceedings against what they term as "rogue buses" responsible for transporting migrants. This enforcement action is part of a broader strategy by the city to intensify efforts in managing the surge of new arrivals, proving to be one of the mayor's most complex challenges.

The urgency to address the well-being of over 24,400 migrants arriving in Chicago since August 2022 has become pronounced as winter approaches, pushing the city's capacity to accommodate and care for them to its limits. A total of 55 lawsuits have been filed by the city since mid-November, targeting 77 buses that allegedly breached new regulations governing their arrival times and locations. Notably, some cases seek fines against the implicated bus companies.

Cassio Mendoza, a spokesperson for the Mayor's office, emphasized the risks posed by these "rogue, uncoordinated" buses, asserting that accountability should be placed on the transportation companies. While Chicago remains committed to welcoming asylum-seekers, concerns arise when bus companies, contracted by the State of Texas, neglect safety measures mandated by the city.

The crackdown, announced in mid-November, established stringent rules for bus arrivals, restricting them to two per hour between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Intercity buses are now required to seek approval from the city before discharging passengers, although the Chicago Department of Transportation reports no applications have been submitted thus far.

To reinforce compliance, the mayor's office is seeking enhanced measures, including the authority to impound buses failing to adhere to the rules and imposing fines of up to $3,000 on the owners. Jeffrey Levine, deputy corporation counsel for the city, conveyed this information to aldermen during a committee meeting. Furthermore, the city may issue citations via mail if bus information is captured on camera.

Designed to ensure the "predictability and orderliness" of bus arrivals, the city approval process, according to Levine, aims to encourage better compliance through stricter penalties. The proposed measures have been advanced by aldermen and await final approval by the City Council.

Since May, 463 buses have arrived in Chicago, with recent instances of buses discharging passengers outside designated areas, including Schiller Park, Rosemont, Cicero, and around O'Hare International Airport, as reported by the mayor's office.

As part of the city's response to the surging arrivals, the mid-November rules reflected a recognition of Chicago's dwindling capacity for new migrants. City officials are also set to issue notices to migrants at city-run shelters, requiring them to vacate within 60 days. Simultaneously, efforts to assist asylum-seekers in relocating out of the city will be bolstered with increased personnel at initial bus landing spots.

Mayor Johnson's initial plan to build a winter camp for migrants faced opposition from Governor J.B. Pritzker's administration. Concerns raised by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regarding insufficient soil sampling and remediation prompted the state to abandon the proposed Southwest Side lot. The quest for an alternative campsite for housing migrants is still underway.


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