ROCKFORD, Ill. — Authorities said 355 migrants who landed on a charter flight in Rockford, Illinois wouldn't be staying.
The plane was carrying the migrants from San Antonio and landed at Chicago Rockford International Airport at 1 a.m. on New Year's Eve. According to the Associated Press (AP), officials say none left the airport, which is about 20 miles from Beloit, before boarding buses.
“NO MIGRANT BUSES THIS EXIT,” signs along Interstate 55 in Grundy County, Illinois, southwest of Chicago, said ahead of Christmas weekend.
The City of Rockford shared on Facebook, "Once the plane landed in Rockford, those onboard were offloaded and immediately boarded buses. Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies escorted the buses to the McHenry County line. County officials told us that buses did not make any stops along the way to McHenry County."
At the moment, the City of Rockford says they are not aware of any other flights from Texas coming into Rockford. They said, "However, the Texas Department of Emergency Management is managing this situation. We will remain in contact with them."
The city went on to share, "If we get more of these flights, we will activate our local Emergency Operations Center to coordinate logistics and planning to ensure the safety of all involved throughout this process."
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has bused more than 80,000 migrants from Texas to Democratic-led cities since 2022, and some buses have also arrived from other states. Abbott’s administration also recently began chartering planes as Chicago and New York started cracking down on buses making unscheduled drop-offs, with fines and tickets.
The acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection calls it “unprecedented” arrivals, with illegal entries topping 10,000 several days last month. For months, big-city Democratic mayors including Eric Adams of New York and Brandon Johnson of Chicago have pleaded with the Biden administration for help addressing the influx.
Hours after the flight landed in Rockford, Johnson told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “Abbott is determined to continue to sow seeds of chaos” by having people arrive in the middle of the night with no notice.
Abbott has defended his tactics by saying President Joe Biden needs to do more to secure the border. His spokesperson Renae Eze on Tuesday also renewed attacks on Democratic mayors, saying their hypocrisy “knows no bounds.”
Grundy County Sheriff Ken Briley said the highway signs south of Chicago were part of an emergency effort to avoid people being dropped off outside in the cold with no money, food, or winter clothes during the holiday weekend. No buses have stopped in the county, and the signs have since been removed, Briley said.
About 30 migrants from Venezuela were recently dropped off at 4:30 a.m. at a gas station in Kankakee County, according to Sheriff Mike Downey. The people “were left without money, food, adequate clothing, and were under the impression that they had reached their destination.”
“I don’t think this problem is going to stop,” said Briley. “We’re a rural community. We just don’t have the same kind of tax base that the city of Chicago does to be able to provide those resources.”