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North Texas bus company sues Chicago over migrant transportation restrictions

Migrants stand in line to receive food from the nonprofit Chi-Care Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in Chicago. In the city of Chicago's latest attempt to provide shelter to incoming migrants, several CTA buses were parked in the area of 800 South Desplaines Street to house people in cold winter weather.
Erin Hooley
Migrants seeking asylum exit the bus after leaving a detention center along the border Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at Oak Lawn Methodist Church in Dallas. Under Operation Lone Star, more than 50,000 migrants have been taken to sanctuary cities outside of Texas since 2022.

A North Texas bus company is suing the city of Chicago over an ordinance restricting when and where intercity buses can drop off migrants.

Wynne Transportation, based in Irving, is one of the companies contracted to transport migrants to Chicago as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star. Since August 2022, more than 30,000 migrants were taken to Chicago, Abbott announced last year. More than 100,000 migrants have been bused to large cities since 2022.

In November, the city of Chicago introduced intercity bus rules and application forms, requiring intercity bus operators to obtain approval before loading or unloading passengers.

Those with approval are also limited to when they can operate.

“We need to set some ground rules on what is acceptable in our city, what we are willing to accept of our new guests, new arrivals," 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez told ABC 7 Chicago in August, before the rules went into effect.

Under the rules, unscheduled intercity buses cannot load or unload passengers in Chicago between 5:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. Monday to Friday. Intercity buses are also not allowed to load or unload passengers at any time on Saturdays, Sundays or designated city of Chicago holidays.

Wynne Transportation alleged those rules violate the Fourteenth Amendment, the Interstate Commerce Clause, and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to court records.

Abbott’s policy has led to struggles for cities suddenly inundated with an influx of people bused in after crossing the Texas-Mexico border — many of whom are escaping violence and natural disasters in their home countries.

In December 2022, former Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued an emergency declaration after a surge of migrants arrived in the city, The Denver Post reported. 

Hancock said the migrants put a strain on city services during a time when resources were already at a breaking point. 

Some cities are feeling that strain again this winter. 

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker took out a full-page ad in the Austin American-Statesman to publish a letter urging Abbott to stop sending migrants to Chicago ahead of this month’s winter storm. 

An Arctic blast, which impacted Texans Sunday through Wednesday morning, continues to affect the U.S. As of Wednesday, a snowstorm was expected to spread throughout the Midwest, including Illinois, later this week. 

Data reported by Axios showed no new buses brought migrants to Chicago as temperatures dropped this week, suggesting the policy may have been placed on hold amid the freeze. 

Wynne Transportation was named as a defendant in another migrant busing lawsuit filed by New York City on Jan. 4. 

Last year New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed an executive order regulating when and where migrants could be dropped off. The executive order also requires advance notice.

The city is seeking $708 million in damages from the companies, which is how much the city has spent to shelter migrants, the Texas Tribune previously reported.

Megan Cardona is a daily news reporter for KERA News. She was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and previously worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.