Mayor Muriel Bowser called a public health emergency on Thursday because thousands of migrants from Arizona and Texas were coming to the nation’s capital by bus. Bowser told reporters at a news conference about a new government office designed to help migrants who arrived in Washington D.C. seeking asylum.
Bowser, a Democrat, said they were putting in place a framework that would allow them to work together with their partners. This will create a program to meet the needs of all buses. Since most people will move on, our main goal is to ensure we have a friendly, quick way to help people so they can reach their final destination.”
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.
Bowser said Thursday that the new Office of Migrant Services for the District would be part of the Department of Human Services. It will help migrants with basic needs like food, transportation, and urgent medical care and connect them to resettlement services.
D.C. will allocate $10 million to set up and run the new office. The mayor said she would ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay back some of that money.
Bowser said Thursday that the time-limited emergency declaration gives her and her administration more power and flexibility. This means that officials can get people and resources together faster and ask the federal government for money. Bowser also said she would send the D.C. Council emergency legislation to make the new office official.
The mayor of Washington, DC, said that Abbott and Ducey were to blame for the “growing humanitarian crisis.” She also noted that the federal response “has been lacking in some respect.”
The Department of Defense said no to Bowser’s request to activate D.C.’s National Guard for the second time last month. The rejection letter stated that using the D.C. National Guard “would not be appropriate” and that the Defense Department “cannot meet your request.”
In a statement on Twitter at the time, Bowser said that they were going to move forward with their planning to make sure that when people are passing through D.C. enroute to their final destination, they have a humane setting for them.”
She repeated the same thing on Thursday and promised that the District would continue to work with partners to get what they need and make sure that a crisis doesn’t break the systems there.