Texas vs. Chicago: Absurd Migrant Bus Fines Explode into Dramatic Courtroom Showdown

Ajdin Kamber / shutterstock.com
Ajdin Kamber / shutterstock.com

As a result of the high number of migrants being dropped off in Chicago, city officials have implemented regulations that limit where and when buses can drop off migrants. Bus companies must notify the city beforehand, or they risk having their buses impounded and being fined up to $3,000. This rule has even been adopted by surrounding suburbs and counties, with some even putting up signs to warn buses carrying migrants to keep driving.

Now, a Texas-based bus company, Wynne Transportation, has taken legal action against the city of Chicago over the new ordinance, claiming that the city’s penalties imposed on buses dropping off migrants violate the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago, argues that Chicago’s establishment of its own immigration policy contradicts the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which grants the federal government authority over this matter. It also alleges the ordinance discriminates against the migrants on the buses.

This legal dispute is part of a broader conflict concerning federal immigration policy and the states’ authority to regulate the reception of migrants. There has been a substantial influx of migrants into Chicago, as well as other Democratic-led cities, thanks to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s busing operation to so-called “sanctuary cities.”

To combat President Biden’s reckless open border policy, Operation Lone Star was started in 2021. As part of the program, the state has transported over 100,000 migrants to cities like Chicago, New York, and Denver. Mayors of these cities have consistently requested federal assistance, calling the operation inhumane. The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, penned a rude letter asking Texas governor Greg Abbott,  not to send migrants to Chicago, at least while the city is experiencing dangerously cold temperatures.

According to Chicago’s arrival tracking dashboard, more than 34,620 asylum seekers have arrived in the city via buses and planes sent by Texas. In response to the influx, Chicago implemented stricter penalties for buses that fail to comply with safety protocols, including fines, towing, or impoundment. Buses must drop off individuals in designated zones and complete proper paperwork for new arrivals.

Wynne Transportation’s subcontractors now face over 90 lawsuits from the city of Chicago, potentially incurring fines ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Michael Kozlowski, an attorney representing Wynne, argues that these penalties significantly impact business and intimidate smaller operators.

The lawsuit contends that Chicago’s penalties violate the interstate commerce clause and the equal rights and due process of both the transportation company and the migrants on buses. It accuses Chicago of abandoning its role as a sanctuary city and instead targeting transportation companies that facilitate migrants’ travel to the city.

Despite the lawsuit addressing passengers’ rights and alleging discrimination against migrants, it does not name any specific migrants or asylum-seekers. Some legal experts, including Steven D. Schwinn, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, interpret this absence as a political move, suggesting that the complaint is more about politics than protecting migrant rights.

This legal battle mirrors similar challenges faced by Texas-based bus and transportation companies involved in Abbott’s busing operation. In a related development, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced a lawsuit against 17 charter companies, seeking over $700 million to cover the costs of caring for migrants sent to the city over the past 20 months.

One thing can be sure: the looming showdown in the courtroom will be a political showdown. Abbott has already commented on a similar lawsuit in New York City. Abbott appeared on Newsweeks saying that New York Mayor  Eric Adams was going to lose and he did not know the law. Abbott clarified his statement, saying that according to the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Doctrine of the Right to Travel, migrants have the right to travel to New York City. He further explained that since the Biden administration has authorized these migrants to be in the United States, they have the right to travel freely.