McBroom applauds migrant busing in letter to Texas governor, says his Naperville host idea meant to be ‘provocative’

Naperville City Councilman Josh McBroom sent a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week expressing his support for the governor’s handling of the migrant crisis at the southern border and acknowledging his proposal that Naperville residents be allowed to sign up to host migrant families was intentionally “provocative.”

McBroom sent the Jan. 30 letter after his proposal gained “national attention,” he said in an interview Monday.

Since broaching the idea at a Jan. 16 council meeting, McBroom has been quoted in the New York Times and interviewed by Fox News and his suggestion has prompted hundreds of comments on social media, some lauding his actions and others accusing him of posturing.

“I assume Gov. Abbott and his people had seen it in the news,” he said. “And I wanted to make clear to the governor the purpose of that motion. And why I did it. And to also thank him for his leadership in the face of the migrant crisis.”

As of Monday, he had not received a response, McBroom said.

McBroom previously told the Sun his suggestion was a “polite challenge to individuals in our communities and surrounding communities who support open border policy.”

Since August 2022, Abbott has sent more than 35,000 migrants to the Chicago area on the grounds that his state cannot handle the influx of people arriving at the southern border on its own — and to make a statement about the promises liberal cities and states have made about welcoming asylum-seekers.

Elected leaders of those states and municipalities, however, have not been shy in their criticism of Abbott’s busing operation. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Denver Mayor Mike Johnston took aim at Abbott at a virtual news conference in December, at which they jointly appeared to call for more federal help in coping with the migrant crisis.

Describing Abbott as a “reckless, rogue elected official,” Johnson said the Texas governor was using the migrants as political tools and the “lack of care that has been on display during the last year and a half has caused an incredible amount of chaos.”

Typically, migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have been brought to Illinois by buses sent directly to Chicago or, more recently, to the suburbs, where they are then taken to the city by Metra trains.

In his letter last week, McBroom said to Abbott that he has “every right to make decisions and bus migrants out of your state to protect the nearly 30 million residents living in Texas.”

He likened Abbott’s approach to his own view of the issue locally.

“But like you,” he wrote to the governor, “I have big shoulders and thick skin, and I’m more than willing to stand up and defend my community from potential danger. And like you, my compassion has limits if it puts my family and community in potential danger.”

In speaking with the Sun, McBroom said he wanted to bring Naperville’s attention to “the urgency of the situation” because he sees “the migrant crisis and the thousands of humans that are coming into our area as a potential threat to Naperville’s public safety and public resources.”

City staff started researching his host family registration idea but ultimately scrapped the matter, deeming it not necessary because they found other agencies already providing migrant housing assistance.

To Abbott, he wrote, “I acknowledge that my proposal was provocative, but it was sincere. Regrettably, the mainstream media was quick to falsely portray me as an open-border liberal who was inviting migrants into our community — a narrative so blatantly false that it was shocking to me that they would even run with that kind of story.

“Democrats created this mess by voting Illinois as a ‘sanctuary state’ and Chicago as a‘sanctuary city’ — and now the rest of us are left paying the bill. Needless to say, I did notreceive a single call from anyone expressing support for the idea of housing migrants. Many of my colleagues and fellow residents are quick to support the idea of welcoming and supporting migrants, but no one is willing to invite them into their own home. And my statement proved that.”

McBroom stressed his letter was personal and he was not speaking on behalf of Naperville.

Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, a Naperville-based lawyer whose firm provides counsel to municipalities across the state, said there isn’t anything wrong with an elected official advocating for or supporting a position as long as they are speaking for themselves only.

“If it’s an individual just engaging in speech … even if it’s quite controversial speech, the protections of the First Amendment are very, very broad as far as what people can advocate and support,” she said.

Krafthefer also clarified that while Naperville has a nonpartisan election system in which candidates do not declare political party allegiance or affiliation, the Naperville City Council is not necessarily a nonpartisan body.

“Because there are going to be people with opposing political viewpoints, both locally and nationally, on the city council,” she said.

Meanwhile, McBroom, who identifies himself as an “unapologetic conservative Republican” in his letter to Abbott, says his provocation wasn’t “a partisan thing at all.”

“I see it as my fiduciary responsibility to talk about this and raise awareness and get people’s attention to the urgency of the situation,” he said.

Several Naperville council members declined to comment on McBroom’s letter. Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli could not be reached for comment.

Chicago Tribune reporters Caroline Kubzansky and Nell Salzman contributed.

tkenny@chicagotribune.com