The city of Elgin has become another temporary suburban stop for migrants being sent across the country from southern border towns.
As has been the case in other communities, buses have dropped off asylum seekers at local Metra train stations so they can be transported the “landing zones” set up in Chicago to receive them.
The most recent group, 33 people from a planeload of 350 who landed in Rockford on New Year’s Eve, arrived in Elgin Sunday morning and boarded a 9:55 a.m. Metra train to the city, Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said.
“Nobody saw them in Elgin. They didn’t contact anyone here,” he said.
City officials became aware of them only when a Metra conductor contacted the Kane County Office of Emergency Management to alert them to the situation, Kaptain said. “We would never have known (otherwise),” he said.
It was the third time in recent weeks that migrants have made the trip to Chicago after being brought to an Elgin train station, the mayor said. Each time, they have been dropped off, walked a few hundred feet to the catch train and left, he said.
“It’s really been very low-key,” Kaptain said.
Texas has been sending migrants to sanctuary cities around the country for months, but Elgin’s not one of them.
“We are not a sanctuary city,” Kaptain said, and Elgin hasn’t received federal funding to assist migrants.
Officials for Gov. JB Pritzker have talked about Elgin being a possible migrant housing site, but the city doesn’t have the means to accommodate them, he said.
“We don’t have enough hotel space. It would be too difficult,” he said. “We are just a pass-through community, and I want to make that as easy as possible.”
That said, the city does have an emergency plan should migrants arrive in the city without any recourse, he said.
“We don’t want them dumped off without a place to go,” he said. “If they have train tickets, we’ll make sure they get on the train. If they come during off-hours (when a train isn’t scheduled) or are left standing in the cold, we will have a place to shelter them until they can get on the train the next day.”
So far, “we haven’t had any incidents, but we are prepared to deal with it,” he said said.
Some council members have broached the idea of an ordinance similar to those passed in other suburbs that would prohibit bus operators from dropping off migrants if they don’t provide advance notice, the mayor said, but he prefers to view the situation from a human perspective.
“I don’t want people to be outside in the cold and be dumped off,” he said. “Personally, I don’t know why I would vote for an ordinance for a problem that’s not there yet. ... Until the plan fails, we’ll stick with what we are doing.”
Although it is not dealing with migrants directly, Elgin did receive $1.3 million in state funding to help with migrant situation last year. The money was distributed to Food for Greater Elgin, Well Child Center and Centro de Informacion, a Hispanic social service agency that can certify migrants seeking asylum.
Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.