AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas has spent over $12 million to bus migrants from its southern border to sanctuary cities to date, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).

The latest city to receive buses unannounced is Chicago.

“We just left Venezuela, went to Colombia, going through the jungle in Panama,” William Mijares, a migrant who arrived on the buses in Chicago, said. “We were not treated like human beings. We were treated like the worst in the world.”

Many migrants share similar stories of their difficult journeys. That’s why Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said they are welcoming them.

“A very important moment for our city to stand up and unite and help these individuals start the next chapter of their lives,” Lightfoot said.

TDEM said the money is specifically coming from the border security budget approved by the Texas Legislature.

Abbott’s office created a portal to accept donations from the public to help fund busing efforts. The donation site lists the fund has raised $167,828 as of Aug. 17.

Gov. Greg Abbott began directing migrants elsewhere through the bus program in early April. It’s a political move to send a message to the Biden administration, which Abbott said isn’t doing enough to help with the surge of migrants at the southern border.

The first group was sent to Washington, D.C., then New York and now Chicago. According to Abbott, buses are being sent to places that are considered “sanctuary cities.”

Here’s a breakdown of how many migrants have gone to each city to date:

  • D.C. – over 7,500
  • New York City – over 1,900
  • Chicago – over 95

Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, in a statement said:

“President Biden has turned a blind eye to the suffering of Texans, as his dangerous open border policies overrun border communities with a record-breaking level of migrants from over 155 countries flooding into our state. Texas legislative leadership agreed with Governor Abbott that additional funds were needed for Texas to respond to the humanitarian crisis created by the Biden Administration, allocating additional Texas taxpayer money for Operation Lone Star and to help bus migrants to our nation’s capital, including providing security for the buses. And after Governor Abbott announced his plan to bus migrants to President Biden’s backyard in Washington, D.C., we received an outpouring of support from across our state and the entire country of people wanting to help and donate to the operation, raising over $167,000 so far. Texas continues stepping up to help our local partners and protect Texans—it’s time for President Biden and Congress to step up and do their job to secure our border.”

The bus program is voluntary for migrants, though, it’s not clear if migrants are made fully aware of details surrounding their transportation.

Lightfoot did condemn Abbott for not giving her city or others any warning or even to help coordinate the process.

“There’s a right or wrong way to do everything, and what Gov. Abbott is doing is precisely the wrong way,” Lightfoot said. “…[he] chose instead to…drop them off without any regard for what the next steps are.”

All cities where migrants have been sent are led by Democratic mayors.