Volunteers scrambled to meet asylum seekers after a bus scheduled to arrive in New York on Christmas was diverted because of winter weather. In a hastily arranged welcoming ceremony, a church on Capitol Hill agreed to temporarily shelter the group, while SAMU First Response, one of the mutual aid groups, arranged for 150 breakfast, lunch and dinner meals at the Sardis restaurant chain.
“DC continues to welcome,” said Amy Fischer, the network’s core organizer. “Whether it’s Christmas Eve, whether it’s cold or warm outside, we’re always ready to welcome people with open arms and make sure they feel warmly welcomed in this community.”
Abbott began offering asylum seekers free passage to immigrant-friendly Democratic cities on the East Coast in April to force the Biden administration to crack down on the border. Other Republican governors, including Doug Ducey of Arizona and Ron DeSantis of Florida, have also sent buses to New York and the nation’s capital.
Texas National Guard stops migrants crossing border in El Paso
The White House condemned the action in a Christmas statement, saying Abbott did not make a plan with federal authorities before getting off the bus.
White House spokesman Abdullah Hassan said in an email to The Post: “On Christmas Eve, Governor Abbott, without coordinating with any federal or local authorities, brought the Children abandoned on the side of the road.” “This is a cruel, dangerous and shameful stunt.”
“As we’ve said repeatedly, we’re willing to work with anyone — Republican or Democrat — on real solutions like the comprehensive immigration proposals that President Biden brought to Congress on his first day in office. Reforms and border security measures, but these political games accomplish nothing but put lives at risk,” Hassan said.
Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment or publicly confirm that it dispatched the bus. In a letter to President Biden on Tuesday, Abbott described conditions at the border, saying Texas cities cannot accommodate the continued influx of immigrants from Mexico. He noted the impending arctic weather and said new arrivals risked “freezing to death on city streets”. Temperatures in some Texas cities dropped into the teens and low 20s this weekend.
“These communities and countries are not equipped to do the job that the federal government has been assigned to do — resettle the thousands of migrants who pour into this country every day,” Abbott said.
Abbott deployed the Texas National Guard last week to try to prevent migrants from crossing the border beyond official points of entry, which have largely been closed to many families and individuals due to Trump-era policies that allow the U.S. to dispatch quickly. People are returning across the border without the opportunity to apply for asylum.
The policy, known as Title 42, has been successfully challenged in court and was set to expire Wednesday, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. ordered it to be kept in place while the Supreme Court The court is considering a last-ditch appeal by Abbott and other Republican governors to prevent it from ending.
The Biden administration has said it is trying to dedicate new resources and policies at the border to deal with the flood of immigrants who want to enter the country and seek asylum, a lengthy process that typically leaves them living in the U.S. while awaiting a hearing work during.
In his letter, Abbott called the administration’s efforts so far a “disaster” and said: “This terrible crisis in border communities in Texas is a disaster of your own making.”
In Washington, D.C., buses have been arriving all week — three from Arizona and three from Texas — so Tatiana Laborde knows it’s going to be an “intense” time.But on Friday, Laborde — who is managing director of SAMU First Response, part of the mayor’s office and mutual aid network — Helping Migrants – Three diverted buses were found. They were due to arrive on Sunday morning, Christmas Day.
But then came another surprise — a bus from Del Rio, Texas, arrived early, stopping near the vice president’s Naval Observatory residence on Christmas Eve.
The destination seems to have more political significance than logistical purposes: While other buses have stopped at Union Station, the Naval Observatory is not close to any other transportation hub. The vice president is in Washington, D.C. this weekend.
Labord said those boarding state chartered buses heading to Democratic cities were less about political maneuvering than a desire to go to a safe place.
“Remember, this doesn’t stop,” Laborde said. “We’ve seen a slowdown in a few weeks, but there’s still a steady stream of migrants coming into the area. It’s become the norm. Not all of this is negative because it gives them a chance to get where they originally intended to go , and those seeking political asylum may have a better chance.”
In response to the influx of immigrants by bus from border states and Florida, local organizations and governments have developed a support mechanism. The District of Columbia created an Office of Immigrant Services to coordinate services, including temporary housing, meals and medical support.
Fischer said the Immigrant Solidarity Network, a series of aid groups formed in response to Abbott’s latest strategy, mobilized volunteers to meet migrants as they dropped off their cars on Saturday. An NGO with ties to the Texas Department of Emergency Management warned that the aid group, working with the city government, rented a bus to take the migrants to a church, where asylum seekers were kept warm. Clothes and hot meals.
Volunteers also help immigrants figure out how they can find friends and family they want to stay or connect them with housing. Laborde said her team was able to buy about 90 tickets for immigrants. New York and New Jersey are the main destinations. The farthest is Boston.
From border town to ‘frontier town,’ bus-riding migrants seek new life in DC
Most of the migrants on the buses arriving Saturday were from Central America or the Caribbean, Fischer said. About half are made up of families. They came from Mexico through unauthorized and dangerous locations along the border, while official crossings remained closed under Article 42 public health policy, a policy used to deport migrants in times of a pandemic.
“This is the final stage of their painful journey,” she said. “The journey to the border in particular is very dangerous and violent. Then, of course, there are reports of the chaos at the border and at border facilities as callous. Many of them are genuinely happy to see smiling faces.”
Michael Kranish and Cleve Wootson contributed to this report.