Sanctuary City Showdown: To the dismay of Illinois leaders, Abbott increases the relocation of immigrants to Chicago

In 2023, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot managed to irk both the Chicago mayor and the Governor of Illinois. In an act of defiance, he sent over 120 immigrants by air to the so-called sanctuary city.

Escalating Abbott’s potential crackdown on sanctuary cities, the introduction of air travel represents a further step in the controversial Operation Lone Star. Since its establishment in April 2022, the busing program of Operation Lone Star has already transported approximately 80,000 migrants from the Texas border to cities like Washington D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles.

The Governor’s office has strongly criticized the immigration policies of the Biden administration, referring to them as a response to what they perceive as a crisis. Governor Abbott himself has gone so far as to call it “an invasion,” a term he uses to describe the situation resulting from federal inaction.

On Tuesday, a new batch of immigrants was transported, marking a departure from the usual method of bus travel. This time, they were flown to their destination.

Tensions between Abbott and the accused cities have escalated, highlighting the alleged hypocrisy of using sanctuary city status for political gain while struggling to manage immigrant influxes. The Governor’s office, as reported by the San Marcos Record, specifically points to the “Welcoming City” ordinance as the focal point of Abbott’s criticism of Chicago.


Last week, Chicago officials took action by seizing a bus. The bus driver had ignored local regulations that are currently being strengthened to combat the issue at hand.

The latest group was transported on Tuesday, marking a significant escalation of Abbott’s ongoing dispute with municipalities that he believes are not adequately addressing immigration issues while claiming sanctuary status. Chicago, with its contentious “Welcoming City” ordinance, has now become the latest battleground for this clash, as reported by the San Marcos Record, citing information from the governor’s office.

Andrew Mahaleris, spokesperson for Abbott, expressed his disappointment with Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson for not following his own city’s policies. This lack of adherence justified the strong reaction from Texas.

Upon crossing the Rio Grande, these immigrants willingly surrendered themselves to authorities and underwent a thorough vetting process before Texas arranged for their transportation. The fact that migrants signed consent waivers prior to boarding the buses and flights organized by the state indicates that, despite the aforementioned conflicts, there is still a sense of order at the heart of this process.

Contrary to popular belief, Abbott is not actually transporting “illegal” migrants. The majority of these individuals have applied for asylum and have been granted that status.

Border cities are still grappling with daily complexities despite a 7% decrease in border encounters compared to the previous fiscal year. Unreleased data sheds light on the ongoing challenges of migration and patrolling, revealing high daily apprehensions. This highlights the relentless nature of the trials faced by both migrants and border patrol agents.

Texans at the border and law enforcement officials have raised concerns about the controversial collaboration between federal and state personnel.

Despite facing strong opposition from lawmakers and various groups in Chicago and across the country, Abbott remains steadfast in his belief that his approach is the most effective way to address the influx of migrants at the border.

Recently, the governor approved Senate Bill 4, a highly debated law that aims to strengthen the penalties for unauthorized border crossings, including the possibility of imprisonment and severe punishments for repeat offenders. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a prominent national organization, has filed a lawsuit against S.B. 4, arguing that it violates the constitution.

The Arizona chapter of the ACLU issued a travel advisory, unfavorably comparing it to the controversial and failed S.B. 1070 in their state. This law has been referred to as a “show me your papers” law.

The ACLU and several immigrant rights groups are requesting a court order to halt the implementation of the law, which is scheduled to take effect on March 5, 2024.

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