Washington, DC, A public health emergency was declared on Thursday by Mayor Muriel Bowser in response to the large influx of migrants travelling by bus from Arizona and Texas. In a press conference, Bowser unveiled a new government agency that will assist recent immigrants applying for asylum and coordinate local responses to immigrant arrivals.
Democratic Mayor Bowser stated, “We’re putting in place a framework that would allow us to have a coordinated response with our allies.” “This will involve a program to meet all buses, and given that the majority of people will move on, our primary objective is to ensure that we have a humane, efficient, welcome process that will let them move on to their final destination,” the statement reads.
In April, Texas’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, started sending immigrants to Washington, D.C., by bus to protest the policies of the Biden administration on immigration. Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, have sent hundreds of buses to Washington, DC, so far, and neither has said that they plan to stop.
As of Thursday, the Texas governor’s office had sent more than 7,900 migrants on more than 190 buses to the District, more than 2,200 migrants on more than 40 buses to New York City, and more than 300 migrants on more than five buses to Chicago.
CNN used the Freedom of Information Act to get a spreadsheet from the state government that shows that as of August 9, Texas had paid Wynne Transportation, the charter service that takes migrants to New York and Washington, DC, $12,707,720.92. Arizona only sends buses to Washington, DC. So far, 46 buses with 1,677 migrants have left the state.
DC Mayor Bowser declares public emergency over thousands of bussed migrants https://t.co/SxXZjvOVmm pic.twitter.com/hIrNUhZYyr
— New York Post (@nypost) September 8, 2022
On Thursday, Mayor Bowser announced that the District of Columbia would establish an Office of Migrant Services within the Department of Human Services to meet the immediate needs of newly arrived migrants. This includes providing them with food, transportation, urgent medical care, and links to resettlement programs.
The District of Columbia has pledged $10 million to open and operate the new office, and Mayor Bowser has promised to seek reimbursement from FEMA for some of that money. Bowser said on Thursday that the time-limited emergency designation gives her and her administration additional authority and flexibility, allowing them to mobilize resources and seek federal financial aid more quickly.
Bowser also said she would send emergency legislation to the D.C. Council to establish the new office. The Mayor of Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser, attacked the federal government for its “lacking in certain ways” reaction to the “developing humanitarian situation” that Abbott and Ducey helped create.
Two months ago, the Department of Defense again rejected Bowser’s request to activate the National Guard in the District of Columbia. According to a copy of the rejection letter obtained by CNN, the Pentagon argued that employing the D.C. National Guard “would not be appropriate” and that the Defense Department “cannot satisfy your request.”
We are going to move through with our preparations to ensure that when folks are passing through D.C. on their way to their final destination, we have a humane setting for them,” Bowser said in a statement on Twitter at the time in response to the rejection.
On Thursday, she reiterated this sentiment, saying that D.C. will “continue to work with partners to advance what we need and ensure our systems in D.C. are not damaged by a crisis that is not of our making.”