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Texas relocates immigrants to Chicago, exacerbating political tensions

The Republican governor of the US state of Texas has moved a group of asylum seekers to Chicago, in a broad attempt to denounce President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, and push responsibility for increasing arrivals along the US-Mexico border, to his Democratic political rivals.

Officials confirmed that two buses carrying about 60 immigrants arrived at the main train station in Chicago late Wednesday night, on a bus from Texas for the first time. The Associated Press reported that 75 migrants arrived.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has moved more than 7,000 immigrants to Washington, D.C. and New York City since April. In a statement Wednesday, Abbott said Chicago will now serve as a “drop-off location” for his “bus strategy.”

The development comes as Abbott seeks a third term in the midterm elections next November. He has used the increase in arrivals along the US-Mexico border to further his political campaign. He says the buses are necessary because Biden failed to secure the border with Mexico.

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The US Border Patrol held a record 1.8 million immigrants at the southwestern border from October 1, 2021, to July 31, 2022. The numbers include immigrants who made multiple attempts to cross the border, counting each attempt separately.

In a statement Wednesday, Abbott called Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, for her city’s “sanctuary” law, which limits cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

“Mayor Lightfoot loves to promote her city’s responsibility to welcome everyone, regardless of legal status,” Abbott said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action.”

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Following Abbott’s announcement, Lightfoot spokesman Rian Johnson confirmed on Twitter that the immigrants had arrived in Chicago.

“Chicago is a welcoming city and has cooperated in this way across various departments and agencies to ensure that we receive them with dignity and respect,” he said.

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“As a city, we are doing everything we can to ensure that these migrants and their families have shelter, food, and most importantly protection,” the statement read.

Immigrants are being moved from Texas as part of an effort that Abbott launched this year to share the flow of people from outside the United States with liberal cities. His state had spent nearly $13 million on the initiative as of August 8, according to government data obtained by Reuters news agency through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also adopted the policy, sending private state buses to Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Since Abbott began the bus effort, Democratic mayors in Washington and New York have called for federal assistance. Immigrants and volunteers said newly arrived immigrants in Washington, D.C., many of them from Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua, have struggled to secure permanent housing and medical care.

In an op-ed published in the New York Post last week, Abbott accused New York City Mayor Eric Adams of “hypocrisy” when he wrote that the leader claims it is inhumane to put immigrants on long bus trips, while backing policies that have encouraged immigrants to travel for days and weeks in light of Often dangerous conditions towards the US borders.

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On Thursday, Fox News reported that many of the immigrants arriving in Chicago were from Venezuela.

The United States implements Title 42 along the US-Mexico border, a pandemic-era policy that allows for the rapid expulsion of immigrants seeking asylum, return to Mexico, or to their countries of origin. But Mexico does not accept Venezuelan immigrants and the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Venezuela, making it impossible to expel them.

The United States allows many Venezuelan citizens—who cite the crippling economic and political crises in their country as reasons to leave—to apply for asylum in the United States.

At least 753,000 Venezuelans have fled their country since November, and about 6.8 million have left since 2014, according to recently released data.

Earlier in the year, Abbott announced that state soldiers would stop and check commercial vehicles crossing the US-Mexico border, a move he acknowledged would “significantly slow” vehicular traffic near US ports of entry. He later watered down that plan after the massive stalemate on the border began to take an economic toll.

The White House said Abbott’s efforts are spreading chaos and using immigrants as political tools. But last week, the Democratic-led city of El Paso, Texas, also sent a bus carrying immigrants to New York City and plans to send one to Chicago, according to local news reports.

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