Village Considering Measure Holding Bus Companies Liable for Abandoning Migrants

By Jeremy Coumbes on January 22, 2024 at 12:00pm

The Village of South Jacksonville is contemplating an ordinance that would hold transportation companies accountable if they drop off migrants without prior notice.

South Jacksonville Chief of Police Eric Hansell spoke with the Village Board of Trustees during their committee of the whole meeting on Thursday about the potential issue.

Hansell says after seeing other communities farther north enacting ordinances after migrants had been abandoned with no warning or plan when they got there, he felt the village needs to be proactive before it happens locally.

What our ordinance would do is hold the transportation responsible for the people that they are dropping off. It doesn’t prohibit it, but what it does do is requires them to fill out an application, about five days prior to arrival, explaining what they are doing and what resources and what location these people are being dropped off at.

So they are not being abandoned at Love’s Truck Stop when it’s negative four degrees out. Again we don’t have a problem with anybody coming here. What we have a problem with is abandoning a human being at a location that they are not familiar with no resources as far as food, shelter or basic sanitary needs.”

Hansell says the main issue is not having enough ready services able to handle the intake of a busload of people at one time who may also have a language barrier that would delay aiding them that much more.

He says the transportation companies should be held accountable for not having a plan in place. “Because where do I go with somebody like that if we got twenty or thirty people who were dropped off from a bus? I don’t have the resources, I don’t have housing, I don’t have food. It just requires [the company], it makes them liable for where they are going to go. Have a plan in place and we are totally okay with it if that is the case.

The motor carrier could be fined up to twenty-five hundred dollars and the bus could be impounded. That’s what we are looking at right now, things like that.”

The draft ordinance is modeled after similar measures being considered or passed in northern Illinois nearer to where thousands of migrants have already been dropped off with no warning by buses in the Chicago area.

The ordinance is currently under review by Village Attorney Rob Cross and could be acted upon at the next regular meeting in February depending on the advice of council.

Hansel says the ordinance is not about keeping people out of town, it’s aimed at trying to keep people safe. “It’s not you can’t come here, we welcome everybody. It is you can’t bring people into town and abandon them and leave them behind with nothing.

That’s what we’re against, it’s not immigration, it’s not people coming into town, it’s the abandoning of people with no resources and leaving them behind, we don’t do that. We have laws that prohibit you from abandoning an animal out in public and why wouldn’t we have something that protects a human being?”

A similar measure proposed in Cass County by the county board was recently tabled after both the Cass County Sheriff and State’s Attorney raised concerns saying that no migrants had been dropped off in Cass County from another state.

Hansell said during Thursday’s meeting that with the village’s close proximity to the interstate, some measure of protection from people being abandoned should be put in place.