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How Peoria is preparing to potentially take in overflows of bused migrants from Chicago

Peoria mayor Rita Ali says she's optimistic the City Council will reach a consensus on how to close a $4 million gap in public service pension payments and pass a biennial budget for 2022-23 during Tuesday night's meeting.
Joe Deacon
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali says the city is building a coalition of public and private organizations to prepare for the potential arrival of a bus full of migrants.

The City of Peoria is preparing for the potential arrival of asylum seekers in the coming weeks.

Mayor Rita Ali said city officials began hearing rumors about the possibility about a week ago.

“At that point, we started putting our thinking caps on,” she said. “We scheduled an emergency meeting for this week with, really, many of the same public and private agencies that responded to COVID and had an emergency response plan and really a system for dealing with that here.”

Latin American language speakers will be needed to serve as cultural connections. The migrants also will need access to shelter, food and health care. Peoria does not have an official welcoming center, and Ali said some private shelters are already full.

“Most of them, like the Dream Center, are at capacity right now,” she said. “So we’re stretched, you know, handling our own current homeless population.”

The Peoria City/County Health Department and the Heart of Illinois United Way's Home for All Continuum of Care are involved in planning, too. Ali said whatever the need, the city is trying to cast a wide net.

“Peoria is a caring city,” said Ali. “We will treat people in a very humane way and do as much as we can to accommodate the individuals.”

She said the city was told a bus of migrants sent to Peoria would most likely transport around 50 people. The city would hopefully receive advance notice of at least three hours, the mayor said.

“If it was not a coordinated effort and a bus just arrived here,” she said, "we would need to be prepared for that as well.”

Chicago has received upwards of 1,000 migrants since Texas began bussing them there earlier this month. Ali said the Illinois Municipal League is working to identify cities across the state that would volunteer to assist and relieve Chicago with overflow.

“They are, you know, collecting information,” she said. “And trying to provide some statewide guidance to mayors across the state of Illinois.”

The mayor said she can’t say exactly how likely the chances are of some asylum seekers being sent to Peoria before she receives a direct notice it's happening.

“But I just have to assume that with the numbers growing, if they increase at the same rate that they have over the past 2 1/2 weeks,” said Ali. “Upwards of 1,000 individuals arriving in Chicago, I would suspect, you know, a higher chance that Peoria might see a bus.”

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.
Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.