Sending migrants to DC causes tension among Democrats

Washington DC.- Thousands of migrants bused to Washington in recent months by Republican governors from states along the US-Mexico border have sparked tensions between the White House and the capital’s Democratic mayor, four US officials told Reuters.

Last week, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called on President Joe Biden, also a Democrat, to mobilize the National Guard to provide aid and shelter to migrants arriving after long journeys from Texas and Arizona.

White House officials and Washington-area volunteers helping immigrants are expressing frustration, saying the aid is unnecessary and that the request, made public last week, plays into the hands of Republican critics of Biden. .

“What people really need is housing, transportation to their next cities, legal services and direct social services, something the military is not really trained to do,” said Ashley Tjhung, a 24-year-old volunteer.

Thousands arrive in DC, but stay only a short time

The vast majority of migrants arriving in Washington spend only hours or days there before heading on to other destinations in the United States, according to a network of volunteers.

Republican Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona have sent about 7,000 immigrants in recent months, the states said.

Just after dawn Friday, about 30 migrants disembarked from a charter bus near Washington’s Union Station after a 36-hour drive from Del Rio, Texas, carrying their meager belongings in clear plastic bags.

The group included adults and families with young children traveling from Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua and Cuba. They walked to a nearby church and took photos of the US Capitol building and the Supreme Court along the way.

In the basement of the church, volunteers offered them breakfast, toothbrushes and clean clothes as they inquired about their medical needs and helped them travel to New York, North Carolina and Florida.

“We have had constructive discussions with Mayor Bowser and her team,” a White House spokesman told Reuters.

“As we have said repeatedly, Republican Governors’ use of desperate immigrants as political tools is shameful,” he added.

Bowser’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the tensions. In a July 22 letter to White House officials, Bowser said the problem “must be dealt with at the federal level.”

In the White House, they believe that Bowser echoes Republicans

Other American cities absorb thousands of migrants without the help of military troops. Since Biden took office, there have been a record 3 million arrests of migrants on the US-Mexico border; many are repeat crosses that are quickly kicked out.

During the same period, hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been allowed to enter the country and then often begin the process of applying for US asylum.

White House officials disagree with Bowser’s description of the immigrant arrivals as a “crisis,” which echoes Abbott’s language about the border, three officials and another source familiar with the matter said.

“The message and the optics are not what the White House wants to hear or see from a Democratic mayor,” said a US official who, along with others, requested anonymity to discuss the internal consensus.

Biden’s senior adviser, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, had been working with Bowser, the person familiar with the matter said, making the troop request even more vexing.

Shelters overwhelm in DC and NY

Washington is not a US state or part of one, so the authority to call up National Guard troops rests with the US Army. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is taking Bowser’s request for troops “very seriously,” according to a spokesman.

In recent weeks, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has also said immigrants from the border were overwhelming the city’s homeless shelters and requested federal assistance.

On Friday, volunteers in Washington bought same-day bus tickets to New York City for several arriving migrants, including a Venezuelan family who had the address of a Bronx shelter intake scrawled on a piece of paper.

A small number of the immigrants who arrived said they planned to stay in Washington.

Among them was the Colombian couple Juan Camilo Mendoza and Noralis Zúñiga, who were traveling with their one-year-old daughter Evangeline. They arrived in Texas after a grueling three-month journey that took them through the Darien Gap, a lawless stretch of mountainous jungle between Colombia and Panama, where migrant smuggling has skyrocketed in recent months.

The couple has no family or friends in the United States and arrived without a fixed destination, a growing phenomenon among those arriving in Washington, according to a volunteer.

“We just said, ‘Let’s go to the United States.’ We didn’t have a city,” said Mendoza, a 24-year-old construction worker. “If we can get a job, settle around here.”

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