WASHINGTON (TSTIME) — The Pentagon rejected a request from the District of Columbia for National Guard assistance in what the mayor called a “growing humanitarian crisis” caused by thousands of migrants being transported to the city by bus from two southern states.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin refused to provide security personnel and use the DC arsenal to assist with the reception of migrants in the city, US defense officials said. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday the district can send an amended, “more specific” request, adding that she believes this is the first time a DC request for the National Guard has been rejected.
An official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision that has not yet been made public, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s food and shelter program has funded the problem and indicated that those funds are currently sufficient. to be.
Bowser, the district’s Democratic mayor, formally asked the White House last month for an open-ended deployment of 150 National Guardsmen per day, as well as a “suitable federal location” for a massive housing and processing center, where the DC Armory was mentioned as a logical candidate.
In the spring, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, both Republicans, announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, DC, in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to issue an emergency health order. to lift the pandemic era that migrants have limited registration numbers. On Friday, Abbott said the first group of migrants from his state have now also taken buses to New York.
By mid-July, there had been about 5,200 migrants on buses from Texas to DC as of April and more than 1,100 from Arizona, which began in May. The governors call the practice a voluntary free ride — paid for by state taxpayers — that brings migrants closer to family or support networks.
But Bowser rejected that characterization last month, saying the asylum seekers are “being tricked” as many don’t get close enough to their final destination and some are dumped at Union Station near the US Capitol and White House. Often they 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 ensure that political considerations are not part of their decision,” Bowser said, adding that she believes the “crisis” will only worsen. “We need the National Guard. If we were a state, I would have done it already.”
A coalition of local charities has been working to feed and shelter the migrants, aided by a $1 million grant from FEMA. But organizers have warned that both their resources and staff were nearly exhausted.
“This reliance on NGOs is not working and is unsustainable – they are overwhelmed and underfunded,” Bowser said in her letter. She has repeatedly stated that the influx is highlighting 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 play” and saying the pair “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 its open border policies” forced Texas to “take unprecedented action 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 get the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has bragged about in the sanctuary city,” Abbott said.
In response, Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy tweeted that Abbott’s “continued use of people as political pawns is disgusting. NYC will continue to welcome asylum seekers with open arms, as we always have, but we still need support from DC.”
As mayor of DC, Bowsesr does not have the authority to personally order the deployment of the National Guard, an issue that has become emotionally fraught in recent years as a symbol of the district’s entrenched status as less than a state.
Her limited authority played a role in the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol uprising by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that the Capitol Police were outnumbered by the crowd, Bowser was unable to immediately deploy the district guard. Instead, crucial time was lost while the request was being considered in the Pentagon, and protesters swept through the building.
The Singapore Time writer Ashraf Khalil in Washington, DC, and Karen Matthews in New York City contributed to this report.