Illinois Democrats create migrant working group Republicans say should be made public

(The Center Square) – Illinois House Democrats are forming a working group to address the ongoing migrant crisis impacting the state. Republicans say it needs to be made public.

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said the migrant crisis “provides challenges and opportunities that require thoughtful engagement and consensus building.”

State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, is a member of the newly created “New Arrivals Working Group.”

“Bring some ideas together both from a policy standpoint and a fiscal standpoint,” Buckner told The Center Square. “We’ve got a lot of people from different backgrounds on this committee and I’m looking forward to getting together to figure out how we can move forward.”

The group consists of other House Democrats, but no Republicans.

State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, who recently traveled to the southern U.S. border, said Democrats need to open the meetings up to the public.

“Let the people come in from the neighborhoods that are affected,” Caulkins said. “Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about it out in the open. Not some small working group that’s going to give the governor cover, ‘oh we’re trying to figure it out.’”

At an unrelated event in Alton, Gov. J.B. Pritzker reacted to a report about Chicago officials being made aware of poor conditions at one migrant shelter weeks before a child died.

“I think we all understand and the mayor and his administration understand that we are trying to keep, in very difficult circumstances, trying to keep people safe in shelters as we’re moving them on to more permanent housing and jobs,” Pritzker said.

Tuesday, Pritzker’s office announced another $11 million for communities that take in migrants. That’s on top of $40 million that was used in 2023. Also announced Tuesday was an additional $4 million to fund 13 Illinois Welcoming Centers around the state. Another $2 million will go to Immigrant Family Resources Program providers.

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said the governor needs to include the legislature.

“The governor has spent the majority of his tenure here in the state of Illinois operating under emergency orders, disaster proclamations, and basically initiatives that subvert the legislative branch,” Wilhour said.

Earlier this month, Pritzker issued his 18th disaster proclamation on the migrant issue. That’s on top of the more than three years worth of COVID-19 disaster proclamations he issued between 2020 and 2023.

More than 35,000 non-citizen migrants have come to Illinois since August 2022, costing Illinois taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars with more costs expected.