Feds deny Bowser’s request for National Guard to help with Texas immigrants

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On Friday, the Biden administration denied DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s National Guard request for assistance in helping the city process buses full of immigrants that the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have been sending to the nation’s capital, which has left the district struggling to accommodate them. .

Bowser (D) expressed frustration with the federal decision and said he would try again with a more specific request for help from the National Guard with certain tasks related to the arrival of migrants.

State governors can call up their National Guard troops without federal consent for a wide variety of tasks. But since DC isn’t a state, Bowser can’t activate the Guard without Department of Defense approval. She had sent a letter asking for help last month.

“When the Mayor of the District says he needs or needs … the DC National Guard to support the safe operation of our city, we expect fair consideration,” Bowser said Friday shortly after learning the Defense Department had rejected the request you made. July 19. The decision was first reported by NBC News.

DC aid groups overwhelmed by immigrants arriving from Texas and Arizona

The Department of Defense released a statement Friday about the decision.

“We have determined that providing this support would negatively impact DCNG’s readiness and have negative effects on the organization and members. We understand that SAMU First Response has received grant funds through FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and has indicated that there are sufficient EFSP funds at this time to provide assistance to migrants,” the statement read.

Bowser criticized both Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) and the Biden administration for treating the busing of thousands of migrants who have crossed the Mexican border as a political issue, rather than focusing on the pressing needs of the people. who get off buses without plans. Where will they sleep?

“I have done, regardless of Republicans in Texas or Democrats on Pennsylvania Avenue, what I need to do to run the city. And when we have a growing humanitarian crisis that we expect, that the federal government expects, will only get worse, I have to deploy the resources that I need to handle it. And we need our National Guard,” Bowser said. “If we were a state, I would have already done it. I would have deployed the National Guard.”

Abbott began busing immigrants to DC in April as a way to highlight his disagreements with Biden. about immigration. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) did the same.

Volunteers who have been helping each arriving bus for weeks, through mutual aid networks, blasted Bowser’s proposal to activate the Guard, saying what migrants need is homeless services, not a military response. .

Column: Immigrants seeking a new life are not a National Guard emergency

They have pushed the Bowser administration to expand city services as beds in family shelters to families who arrive. DC Council members have questioned whether the mayor is doing enough with local DC resources to help.

While the federal government has awarded a grant to a nonprofit organization to help migrants, volunteers say much more support is needed. The nonprofit, SAMU First Response, has said it can only help about half of the 15 weekly buses of arrivals, and the shelter it has set up in Maryland for families with arriving children can only house about 50 people. They can only stay for three days. .

At times, aides have worked so hard that arriving immigrants have nowhere to go and sleep in DC’s Union Station when they get off the bus.

Madhvi Vahl, an organizer with the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, said the group’s 250 to 300 volunteers are spending thousands of dollars a day on donations to respond to migrants’ immediate needs, from shoes to medicine to car rides. Uber to hospitals. Volunteers greet each bus, help migrants find their way to shelters or hotels where the city pays for their accommodation, and sometimes house migrants in their own homes.

“The city should not rely on the labor and funds of DC residents and volunteers to support the people and welcome them back,” Vahl said, urging Bowser to seek larger FEMA grants to cover the costs of housing and help for immigrants. “We’re not case managers, you know? Of course, we’ve been doing our best and will continue to do as long as we can. But the city needs to make a decision to truly be the sanctuary city that we claim to be.”

Peter Hermann and Vanessa G. Sánchez contributed to this report.

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