Bowser, the district’s Democratic mayor, formally asked the White House last month for an indefinite deployment of 150 National Guardsmen per day, as well as a “suitable federal location” for a mass housing and processing center, citing the DC Armory as a logical candidate.
This spring, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, both Republicans, announced plans to send buses full of immigrants to Washington, DC, in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted the entry of immigrants by denying them the opportunity to apply for asylum. The rule remains in effect under court order.
On Friday, Abbott said the first batch of immigrants from his state had also been bused to New York.
As of mid-July, about 5,200 migrants had been bused from Texas to DC since April. As of August 3, more than 1,300 had been shipped from Arizona since May. Governors call the practice a voluntary free ride, paid for by state taxpayers, that brings immigrants closer to family or support networks.
But Bowser last month dismissed that characterization, saying asylum seekers are being “misled” as many do not get close enough to their final destinations and some are dumped at Union Station near the US Capitol and the White House. They often arrive with no resources and no idea what to do next.
On Friday, Bowser told reporters that the Pentagon appears to be concerned “about the open nature of our request,” and that a more specific one would help.
“We want to continue to work with the Department of Defense so that they understand our operational needs and make sure that political considerations are not part of their decision,” Bowser said, adding that he believes the “crisis” will only get worse. “We need the National Guard. If we were a state, I would have already done it.”
A coalition of local charities has been working to feed and house the migrants, with the help of a $1 million grant from FEMA. But organizers have been warning that both their resources and staff were near exhaustion.
“This reliance on NGOs is broken and unsustainable: they are overwhelmed and underfunded,” Bowser said in his letter. She has repeatedly stated that the influx is stressing her government’s ability to care for its own homeless residents and now requires a federal response.
Bowser sharply criticized Abbott and Ducey, accusing them of “cruel political gambling” and saying that the pair had “decided to use desperate people to score political points”.
Explaining his decision to add New York City as a destination, Abbott said Biden’s “refusal to acknowledge the crisis caused by his open border policies” forced Texas to “take unprecedented steps to keep our communities safe.” .
He said the migrants are being dropped off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
“In addition to Washington, DC, New York City is the ideal destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has boasted of within the sanctuary city,” he said. Abbott.
In response, Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Adams, tweeted that “Abbott’s continued use of human beings as political pawns is disgusting. NYC will continue to welcome asylum seekers with open arms, as we always have, but we still need DC’s support.”
As mayor of DC, Bowser does not have the authority to personally order the deployment of the National Guard, an issue that has been emotionally charged in recent years as a symbol of the district’s entrenched status as less than a state.
Their limited authority played a role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that the Capitol police were overwhelmed by the crowd, Bowser was unable to immediately deploy the district guard. Instead, he missed crucial time while the application was being considered inside the Pentagon, and protesters stormed the building.