International News

Chicago Cardinal Pledges Support for Migrants Sent from Texas

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, center, leaves in procession after Pope Francis’ Mass with new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Aug. 30, 2022. (Photo: Catholic News Service)

CHICAGO — Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has pledged the archdiocese’s support for city efforts to respond to busloads of migrants arriving from the southern border at the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, simultaneously calling Abbott’s actions “unbecoming of any elected official.”

“Treating children of God as political pawns is unbecoming of any elected official, especially when it involves marginalized, suffering people,” Cardinal Cupich said in a Sept. 3 statement. “The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with local municipal and religious leaders who have pledged to support these new arrivals seeking better and safer lives.”

As of Sept. 6, more than 150 migrants had been sent to Chicago on three buses, according to Abbott’s press office. The first bus arrived on Aug. 31. Abbott’s press office declined to comment on what the frequency of buses would look like going forward. Migrants are not forced onto the buses. They board voluntarily after they are processed by U.S. immigration officials.

Chicago is the third Democrat-led city to which Abbott has bused migrants. The Republican governor started busing migrants to Washington, D.C. in April, followed by New York City at the beginning of August. As of Sept. 6, more than 7,700 migrants had been sent to the nation’s capital on over 185 buses, and more than 2,100 migrants had been sent to New York City on over 40 buses, according to Abbott’s press office.

Abbott began the practice as a rebuke of President Joe Biden’s border policies, which he blames for the unprecedented number of migrants that have arrived at the southern border this year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that there were more than 1.9 million southwest land border encounters between October 2021 and July 2022 — exceeding the total for Fiscal Year 2021 by more than 200,000.

Announcing that the first bus had arrived in Chicago on Aug. 31, Abbott said that, like New York and Washington, D.C., Chicago is a sanctuary city.

“Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status, and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them,” Abbott said.

Lightfoot, at a Sept. 4 press conference, said her frustration with the situation isn’t the city’s need to respond to the migrants but the actions and lack of coordination from Abbott.

“There could be a level of coordination and cooperation, but he chooses to do none of those things and instead tries to send human beings, not cargo, not freight, but human beings across the country to an uncertain destination,” she said. “We have yet to hear from anybody in an official capacity from Texas. It’s unacceptable.”

“We’re talking about human beings’ lives, who have themselves gone through an incredible journey to go to the United States,” she added. “I think the decent, human thing to do is to cooperate and collaborate.”

Phil Zepeda, vice president of communication for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago told The Tablet on Sept. 1 that the organization is “helping the city … welcome immigrants and assess very initial basic human needs on their journey.” Zepeda and the organization declined to comment further, citing that the city of Chicago is handling all media inquiries.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office declined multiple requests for comment or an interview.

In the statement, Cardinal Cupich acknowledged that the “burden of supporting migrants has fallen disproportionately on border states,” adding that the “issue would be better addressed by a strategy of national cooperation.”

Cardinal Cupich went on to call welcoming immigrants “a fundamental moral imperative of Christianity.”

“We Christians are called to welcome the stranger, the migrant, the refugee, because they too are children of God, all of us members of the same family, the human family,” he said.

“After all, Jesus himself was a refugee, as Mary and Joseph were forced to flee their homeland because it had become too dangerous,” he continued. “When Christians choose to help our immigrant brothers and sisters, we are doing as Jesus taught — we are choosing to see them in the Holy Family, who only wanted to live. We are choosing life.”

The cardinal concluded with a welcome message to all immigrants.

“So to all immigrants and refugees, those who have recently arrived, as well as those who have made lives for themselves here, enriching their communities and indeed the whole nation, we welcome you, along with the opportunity to show you God’s family cares for its own,” Cardinal Cupich said.