Migrant influx: What suburban communities are doing as buses carrying asylum-seekers stop in their towns

Days before Christmas, Aurora’s Deputy Mayor Guillermo Trujillo received a call.

Buses with migrants seeking asylum had arrived at the Aurora Transportation Center. The first one dropped off its passengers so they could catch the train to Chicago, but by the time Trujillo got to the center, a second bus already was there.

This time, however, the bus driver did not have train tickets to hand out to passengers and told the 48 migrants on board that this was their last stop and to get off the bus. It was 29 degrees out.

“I saw them running, very lightly clothed; pajama pants for the babies,” Trujillo recounted as he described purchasing the tickets for passengers and seeing them run to the train. “They went in there shaking, cold.”

Since December, buses carrying asylum-seekers from Texas have made their way to suburban train stops in an attempt to skirt Chicago’s laws and avoid fines. Suburban officials are scrambling to react and prevent scenes like the one in Aurora.

Their stay in the country temporarily is allowed, with notices to appear in immigration court to pursue asylum or be on humanitarian parole and they are required to report regularly to immigration authorities. Migrants may seek asylum if they enter the country illegally under U.S. and international law, and U.S. authorities have broad authority to grant parole based on individual circumstances, The Associated Press reports.

This week in Palatine, police escorted a bus carrying migrants out of town. At the Schaumburg train station, electronic signs warn bus drivers they cannot stop there. In Hinsdale and Buffalo Grove, council members this week adopted ordinances similar to those adopted by Aurora and other towns in December that require advance notice from bus companies and set fines for unscheduled drop-offs.

Migrants arrive on a bus at the Aurora Metra station on Dec. 22 and prepare to board a train to Chicago. On that same day, Aurora aldermen approved an ordinance restricting such bus drop-offs. Courtesy of ABC7 Chicago

Suburban leaders now find themselves in the middle of the national migrant influx gripping major cities. Many note it is an issue that should be handled on the federal level and are urging lawmakers to act.

“There’s no plan,” Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said. “That’s what this is all about. The plan needs to start with the federal government.”

In the meantime, the buses keep arriving, forcing communities to act and prompting activists to plead for compassion and care.

“We have communities of all sizes and in all corners of the state that are concerned about this,” said Brad Cole, executive director for the Illinois Municipal League.

This week, DuPage County issued a statement noting that 72 buses carrying nearly 3,000 migrants have arrived at area train stations since Dec. 14. County officials said the passengers were boarded safely onto trains heading to Chicago.

“Our goal remains to provide a secure and smooth transition for these new arrivals after they have traveled such great distances,” DuPage County Board Chairwoman Deborah Conroy said in the written statement.

Kane County authorities said they were aware of 10 buses making stops at train stations in Aurora, Elgin and Elburn between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2. Lake County’s Emergency Management Agency was aware of eight buses making stops in local communities in recent weeks.

And while communities across the suburbs have raised concerns about the stops, some noted that they are brief and without issues. The passengers generally stay on the bus until the train arrives and exit to get onto the waiting train.

“The bus is arriving just before the train leaves,” said Scott Buziecki, director of emergency management for Kane County. “They aren’t staying here because there’s no services being provided to them here ... Chicago is the landing point.

“The impact to the community really is minimal,” he added.

  Elburn is among several communities that have adopted ordinances to deter buses carrying migrants seeking asylum from dropping off their passengers at suburban train stations rather than taking them directly to Chicago. Jeff Knox/

Other community leaders, however, have expressed concern about potential problems, such as buses arriving after the last train of the day leaves. Or, as was seen in Kankakee in December, a bus dropping off its passengers in town, away from the train station, with no train tickets and no plan to get them to Chicago.

At their Dec. 22 meeting, Aurora aldermen adopted an ordinance to deter unscheduled bus stops. The ordinance requires bus companies to submit an application form five days before arrival that outlines the plan of action for migrants once they arrive in town and lists contact information for the bus driver and the bus company, or face fines and possible seizure of their bus.

Other towns are following suit.

“This is an issue of humanity, humane treatment or, in the case of what we’ve seen, inhumane treatment,” Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said at a December meeting before the council approved the ordinance, adding that it was the city’s way “of mitigating and lessening the inhumane treatment of human beings.”

Aurora and Rosemont, which adopted its ordinance on Dec. 18, have not had any buses arrive at their train stations since enacting the local rules.

Both communities contacted the more than 20 bus companies they knew to be transporting migrants from Texas to Illinois and let them know what the new rules were. None have applied for permission to drop off passengers in their towns, officials said.

Hinsdale, which with Wheaton saw the most bus drop-offs in DuPage County, hopes for similar results after adopting its own bus ordinance this week. Hinsdale saw 11 buses arrive at its train station in 11 days.

“We were initially told that the inflow of buses to Hinsdale would last seven days,” Village President Thomas Kauley said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “But we’ve recently been advised by a bus driver that, unless we do something, these buses will keep coming, unannounced, at least through March if our southern border continues to remain open.”

Schaumburg, Mundelein and Prospect Heights officials expect to vote on similar ordinances at their upcoming village board meetings.

Even with local ordinances and mandates for bus companies to file applications, suburban officials are echoing calls for help at the federal level, with some suggesting the country’s southern border be shut down until the government can develop a plan to handle the influx of migrants.

“We need to have the federal government address this at the border,” Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said. “Not necessarily turn it off, but at least look at this and say how do we control this migration into the U.S. in a more orderly fashion.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.