Mayor Tim Kelly, city respond to immigrant buses

Charter buses will no longer come through city, according to chief of staff

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — The Chattanooga City Council heard public comments tonight on the numerous buses that were recently carrying asylum-seeking migrants from Texas to America’s northeast.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, as well as both city staff and city council members, actually commended the community’s response to the sudden caravan of buses seen in both Chattanooga and rural Georgia.

Kelly says prior rumors of migrant buses passing through weren’t confirmed until a CPD officer responded to one and made contact with its Texas charter company.

Chattanooga then coordinated a multi-agency response to make sure each migrant who got off their bus was met “with compassion.”

“These are all migrants to our knowledge that have been screened by the Department of Homeland Security who are legally seeking asylum — that is a protected legal status, notably,” Kelly said. “For most of them, again, Chattanooga is not their final destination. They essentially just were lost in a city where they didn’t know how to get around.”

However, both Kelly and city Chief of Staff Joda Thongnapnua say that the charter buses will no longer stop in Chatanooga.

Thongnapnua hinted it may be because Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may prefer to see those seeking asylum in DC or New York City … not the Scenic City.

“We have no invested interest in the governor of Texas’ political aims,” Thongnapnua said. “But my understanding is that if folks are getting off in Chattanooga, they were not exactly achieving their political aims.”

In Tuesday’s city council meeting, both council members and the public alike commended the city’s efforts to welcome traveling migrants.

Most, if not all, who spoke hope the city continues to offer a helping hand to those seeking out the American dream.

“While volunteering at the airport as an interpreter, I saw people from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and other places in tears, but grateful that for some hours, they were offered food, water,” said Luis Mata of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition. “But most of all, they appreciated the kindness, the warmth and support of a caring human being.”

Kelly says one doesn’t “have to be a Biblical scholar to realize that compassion for lost travelers is a core Christian value” — something he believes was well on display this week.

He says 51 migrants deboarded after Chattanooga began its response, but only four stayed with local families.

He personally thanked the city’s Office of New Americans, CARTA, the airport, La Paz, and more who provided necessary aid and resources.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Local News