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GOP Governors Send Busloads of Migrants to D.C. With No Plan for What’s Next

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Migrants from Venezuela who boarded a bus in Del Rio, Texas, disembark in front of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., Aug. 2.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


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Migrants from Venezuela who boarded a bus in Del Rio, Texas, disembark in front of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., Aug. 2.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

For months now, the governors of Texas and Arizona have been sending charter buses full of migrants and refugees to Union Station in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the Capitol building.

When they land, they don’t find any local or federal government there to meet them.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he started sending buses to D.C. because the Biden administration tried to repeal the pandemic-era Section 42 emergency order that allowed the US to deny migrants entry.

More than 6,100 migrants arrived by bus from Texas alone to Washington, according to Gov. Abbott’s office. They arrive six days a week from 6 am to 11 pm, sometimes with several buses a day.

Many families arrived with little or no preparation for what would come next.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


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Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


Many families arrived with little or no preparation for what would come next.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

In response, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said it was a federal matter that needed a federal response. In June, she and other local government officials received a FEMA grant for an international nonprofit organization offering emergency services to migrants.

So far, only local volunteers and nonprofit employees have welcomed these buses to Union Station. Abel Nunez is the head of CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, who stepped in to help the people who were busted into DC when it all started.

“It was really crazy because they were just leaving them on the street,” said Nunes, who first showed up at the station on April 16 after receiving a tip from the D.C. Hispanic Affairs office that the bus was on its way.

“We knew he was on his way, so we had been there since 5 am, just waiting for them along with mutual aid organizations,” he said, adding that the first bus did not arrive until 8 am. these people were getting off the buses.”

The organization soon learned that the migrants were released from immigration detention centers at the border and spent very little time — sometimes less than a day — at a shelter or non-profit organization at the border before they were put on a bus for the 36-hour trip. .

It took a community effort to help the incoming migrants.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


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Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


It took a community effort to help the incoming migrants.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Mayor Bowser demanded that the federal government send the DC National Guard to support nonprofit personnel helping migrants.

The federal government should call the DC National Guard because the DC is not a state and so far the government has not responded to their request. In addition, some volunteers disagree with what they call a “military response” to the humanitarian crisis.

“The Governor of Texas has moved temporary work to the District of Columbia. We are not a border town, so we are not used to doing this kind of work,” Nunes said. His organization helps migrants getting off the bus with food, hygiene kits and a safe place to rest.

“It was just a free ride for them,” Nunes said. “They really didn’t have any other options, and they were offered a bus to the east coast—Washington, D.C.—which some of them realized was closer to their final destination… so they were happy.”

But he added that since only local volunteers and non-profit employees welcome the buses, and the government doesn’t support them, the migrants were baffled by the mess they found when they got to DC.

“We have to admit that the immigrants coming were mostly from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba… some people from Central Africa… so they [final] destinations such as Miami, New Jersey, New York or Tennessee [in mind]” Nunes said.

“We need a place where we can take them in, feed them and really help them plan their next move. Even if it means they stay in the DC area.”

Sometimes volunteers took migrants to their homes to help them.

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Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


Sometimes volunteers took migrants to their homes to help them.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

CARECEN has helped send some migrants to California or Texas, or where their family or friends can take them. However, volunteers say that about 10-15% of those who were dropped off by these buses decided to stay in Washington indefinitely.

One Venezuelan couple lived in a volunteer’s home with their four children before flying to Florida.

“It was harder there in Texas when we were in the refugee camp because there are military officers on the border, so they treat people like militants,” said Ronald, the husband. “I felt like we were in the best place. If we don’t have her family, I told her that we would stay here. We will stay in Washington.”

Critics, including some Republican state and local officials, have cited Gov. Abbott’s plan to bus migrants into DC. “political theater”. However, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey joined Texas and began bringing migrants to the nation’s capital in May.

“I felt like he really wanted to get the media success out of it,” Nunes said of Abbott’s move. “And that eventually two or three weeks later, when things calm down, he’ll stop doing it.”

The federal government has yet to send the National Guard to assist.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


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Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


The federal government has yet to send the National Guard to assist.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

When that didn’t happen, Nunes said the community stepped in.

“I think this is an example where the local community stood up and said: “No, we are not going to cause chaos in our city, we will stand in solidarity with the people who are on the buses and help them get to the best of our ability,” — Nunes said. “Now we have reached our limit in this.”

But he added that the resources of the city or the federal government and other municipalities can really help. “I think we can do an amazing job of showing this country what it means to truly integrate newcomers into our communities.”

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