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GOP’s busing of migrants stirs political debate over aid

Just steps away from the U.S. Capitol, three buses filled with 140 asylum seekers rolled into Union Station at 6 a.m. on Aug. 26. For these migrants, the 30-hour journey from the Texas border concludes as they are met by a network of D.C.-based volunteers. But behind the scenes, a fierce political debate rages over one central question: Who is responsible for them now?

Since April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) have bused thousands of migrants to the sanctuary cities of Washington, D.C., and New York. The politically motivated move comes in response to President Joe Biden’s May 2022 effort to lift Title 42, a pandemic-era order that allows U.S. border officials to quickly expel asylum seekers on public health grounds without a legal process.

Now liberal, big-city mayors, conservative governors of border states and the Biden administration wrangle over how to provide aid to migrants who have basic needs upon arrival, like housing and food.

Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has twice formally requested that the National Guard help with what she calls a “humanitarian crisis” in the nation’s capital. “We need to make sure that there is a national response, not an ad hoc, city-by-city, state-by-state response,” said Bowser during a July 28 press conference.

The Department of Defense denied Bowser’s first request for the guard on Aug. 5, stating in a letter obtained by POLITICO that “sufficient EFSP [Emergency Food and Shelter Program] funds exist at this point to provide migrant assistance.”

In her second request, Bowser added that the help would only be needed for 90 days. Again, the Pentagon declined her request.

Amy Fisher, who volunteers her time with Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, says that the local and federal government is “exploiting” volunteers by not providing necessary resources for migrants.

“While Mayor Bowser is pointing at the Biden administration and the Biden administration is pointing to Mayor Bowser, I am buying groceries for my family and buying groceries for the people that are making their lives here,” says Fisher, who helps connect migrants to resources weekly.

Abbott’s pressure on the Biden administration for stricter border policies continues as he accelerates his plan to send more migrants to sanctuary cities.

“The federal government denied Mayor Bowser’s second request for help because they deny the reality of Biden’s border crisis. DC is experiencing a fraction of what Texas faces every day,” Abbott tweeted on Aug. 23.

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