Morgan Co. Emergency Management Officials Keeping Close Watch on Chicago Migrant Bussing

By Benjamin Cox on January 10, 2024 at 11:47am

The City of Jacksonville and Morgan County Emergency Management officials are keeping a close eye on the migrant crisis impacting the city of Chicago and the collar counties.

Buses from the State of Texas have recently dropped off migrants in Aurora and Kankakee, with several collar counties passing ordinances that would require notice or even limit times that intercity buses could drop off immigrants in the city.

Recently, Madison and Cass County downstate are mulling similar ordinances so that if and when migrants possibly come to those locations, they have some course of action to take.

Morgan County Emergency Management Coordinator Phil McCarty says the migrant crisis in the Chicago was recently the top priority of a meeting of all emergency management officials from around the state: “I can’t say it won’t happen here because a bus could break down, whether it has immigrants on it or not. It’s still an issue that we have to be prepared to handle and mitigate. From our office’s standpoint, have we recommended bringing an ordinance to the county board? No, we have not at this time, but we are very in tune to what’s going on in Chicago even though it’s 4 hours away. It’s really not, because we know what’s going on. Our partners in the region, our cohorts – we all talk and this is on our list and we are paying attention.”

McCarty says that bringing a busload of nearly 50 migrants to Jacksonville would be a fatal mistake because the city and the county wouldn’t have the emergency resources available, especially in the winter time to support them: “The amount of resources that it takes in a community to handle immigrants safely for them is high. Not to mention, it is wintertime here. By bringing them into a community the size of Jacksonville, we don’t have the capabilities today to handle that. I hope to believe that the people who are bringing immigrants here and are in charge of moving those immigrants across not only this state but across the other states realize that is a fatal mistake in putting them into communities of our size and smaller and larger. I understand what the City of Chicago has done. Their challenges are much different than ours.”

McCarty says all levels of government has to address the issue both precisely and as humanely as possible, across the political divide on U.S. immigration policies.

McCarty says if a bus of migrants were brought here, it would automatically trigger a humanitarian emergency response from all stakeholders in the community: “If we would have an incident…which is what it would be classified as…we would have an emergency. Fifty people being dropped off into our community would overwhelm our resources instantaneously. That’s just one bus or even one partially full bus, for the record. I have a lot of faith in our local and state partners that they would come to aid us to make sure we were able to respond. And, it may be that we have to send them to a location where there is a process in place. We are not going to accept them here. We don’t have the resources to do that. We just flat don’t have the physical or financial resources to do that here, but we would work with our state partners to ensure that we are not going to leave people on the streets. That’s not how we roll here. That’s not how we roll in this state. I’m confident in our state partners that they would come to support us, as well as our local partners where we would be able to respond through that challenge. We are not asking for that challenge, but I’m sure we would get through it. It would just tax every resource that we have.”

McCarty says so far there have been no reports of buses breaking down or stopping in Downstate Illinois yet.

In the meantime, he says Jacksonville is working on its own homeless and winter weather emergency problems right now. However, he says that all stakeholders across Illinois are keeping a close eye on the migrant crisis as things continue to change each day.