(The Center Square) – From Washington D.C. to the Chicago suburbs, the migrant crisis continues to dominate public-safety concerns on a local level.
Thursday morning, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it was funding the construction of about 20 miles of physical barriers at the southern border in Texas. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it’s part of President Joe Biden’s approach to “border security and comprehensive immigration reform.”
“He’s not just doing this in isolation,” Pritzker said of the Biden administration. “He’s also telling Republicans that ‘if you want to come to the table, now is the time. We’re willing to do this, if you’re willing to do that.”
Separately, Biden was asked if he thinks the wall would work. He said “no.”
“Money was appropriated for the border wall,” Biden said. “I tried to get them to reappropriate it, to redirect that money, they didn’t, they wouldn’t. And in the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated. I can’t stop that.”
In the past fiscal year, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported more than 2.8 million encounters along the southwestern U.S. border, far more than under past presidential administrations. Illinois has seen more than 15,000 non-citizens arrive from the southern border since last year.
With concerns of the strain of accepting non-citizen arrivals from Chicago, Joliet officials say they don’t want a state taxpayer-funded $8.6 million grant to care for migrants.
Friday, Joliet was among six Chicago-area communities that Pritzker announced were getting grants for migrant care. Tuesday evening, Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy said they have asked the Joliet Township supervisor to withdraw the request.
“Understand, the City of Joliet Mayor’s Office and Joliet Fire Department did not approve, agree or sign off on this grant application,” D’Arcy said.
Late Wednesday, Joliet Township Supervisor Angel Contreras told The Herald-News he stands by the application as migrants are already arriving.
“The people are here already, and we don’t want our systems to go under,” Contreras said.
Resident Betty Washington told the Joliet City Council her concerns about non-citizen arrivals straining health care and education resources meant for citizens.
“Personally, I think there should have been a collaboration with the mayor of the city of Joliet, the county board, the senators, the local politicians,” she said. “This should not have been done in a silo.”