Migration

GOP governors have successfully created a migrant crisis in Washington, DC

Mr. Felix has taken in at least seven refugee families since the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott started busing migrants to the United States Capitol in the spring. The Washington, D.C. resident, who chose to remain partially anonymous, as part of the voluntary response to the recent influx of people apprehended at America’s southern border, says they have helped mothers who have arrived after being assaulted in front of their children, fathers with broken ribs, families “thrown to the side of the road outside Union Station”, sometimes in the middle of the night. Félix slept on their sofa while a family of seven took refuge in their house. They accompanied migrants to medical appointments. They helped DC arrivals arrange travel to their final destinations.

Felix was happy to do so; they fled the Philippines to the United States in the 1970s, they say, and want these new refugees to be welcomed in the same way. “We have to provide them with that,” Felix says. “If we don’t, we’re just shifting the blame elsewhere.” But the work has also taken its toll on Felix and other volunteer responders, who say local and federal governments have treated the situation as a “political hot potato” while abdicating their responsibility to fix the problem, leaving a web of overworked self-help volunteers. and small organizations overwhelmed alone to help the nearly 5,000 migrants who have arrived in the city since the bus programs began in April.

“There’s just no support,” says Bianca Vázquez, a leader in mutual aid response. “We are funding a resettlement effort.”

The bus program is part of Abbott’s controversial border mission, Operation Lone Star, which is reportedly being investigated by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations. It was implemented in April as a sort of protest against what the Texas governor called the “Biden border disaster.” It’s a voluntary policy – migrants processed by the Department of Homeland Security must choose to board buses – but some migrants reported being promised that there would be support and resources available to them. would be waiting in Washington, and the mayor of DC Muriel Bowser suggested in July that some migrants had been “tricked” to participate. (Abbott and the Governor of Arizona. Doug Ducey, who instituted a similar program in May, the misleading asylum seekers denied.) In any case, GOP governors are exploiting migrants to make a political point about federal immigration policy under President Joe Biden, move a humanitarian crisis across the border to the nation’s capital.

Local organizers have been frustrated for months with what they call a “leadership vacuum” among DC officials, as an estimated 4,700 migrants and 153 buses arrived from Texas and Arizona in late July, according to the network. mutual aid. But their outrage intensified last week when Bowser called on the National Guard to help bring the situation under control, which aid volunteers condemned as a “militarized response to a humanitarian crisis” that could further traumatize migrants. vulnerable. “When you meet military people,” recalls Vazquez, a migrant telling him last week, “you are treated like militants.”

Bowser has “aligned herself with Governor Abbott,” Vazquez said, warning that the activation of the National Guard could be used to justify the hard-line immigration policies of right-wing governors. “That really, to me, emboldens and cosigns the cruelty of Governor Abbott and Governor Ducey,” Vazquez tells me. “We could prove that a community response is possible. It’s an opportunity to show what hospitality looks like and what it’s like to be a sanctuary city.

Immigrant rights advocates denounced the policy when it was announced in the spring, as did the White House: ‘I think it’s pretty clear that this is a publicity stunt,’ so attached Press. Jen Psaki told reporters at the time.

But the program continued, with what appeared to be little official government action amid the influx, apart from grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that helped support SAMU First Response, one of the non-profit organizations helping arriving asylum seekers. . But “current FEMA grants are not sufficient” to help the humanitarian group, which can only respond to “a small fraction of the buses that arrive”, and it has “not received significant support from the government of district,” according to DC Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau. “Cities across borders have shown real leadership in ways to provide local responses to migrants,” co-wrote Nadeau, chair of the council’s social services committee, in a July 14 letter. at Bowser. “Now that the border has arrived in DC, it is our responsibility to face the moment.”

Bowser responded to the letter, saying at a press conference that DC “will not be able to take responsibility” for arriving migrants and that this is a “federal issue that requires a federal response.” But Amy Fisher, Caring Network lead organizer and Sanctuary DMV volunteer says the mayor ‘is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars,’ including federal funds, ‘that could be used to provide a more humane welcome to migrants who are coming.”

Bowser’s office did not respond to vanity loungerequest for comment.