State Watch

DC mayor declares public emergency over busloads of migrants

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and District of Columbia Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt hold a press conference in 2021.
Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and District of Columbia Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt hold a press conference in 2021.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Thursday declared a public emergency over busloads of migrants from Texas and Arizona arriving in the nation’s capital.

Bowser said she was creating a new Office of Migrant Services to assist with the emergency, estimating that 9,400 migrants have been bused to her city since April and hundreds more are expected this fall.

“What we’re dealing with is a big unknown, and it’s an unknown being imposed on us,” the mayor said at a Thursday morning press conference. “We’re not a border town.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) began busing migrants to Democratic cities over the spring, including New York City and Chicago.

The Republican governors are protesting the Biden administration’s border policies, which they say are too lax.

Inundated by the migrants, Bowser requested the assistance of the D.C. National Guard in both July and August but was rebuffed by the Pentagon, which called the request “inappropriate” in a letter reviewed by The Hill.

Bowser on Thursday said she was continuing a dialogue with the federal government on the issue, which she called a “political stunt.”

“This is a new challenge for DC, but I feel confident that if we lead with our values, and if we put the right systems in place, which we are doing with the Office of Migrant Services, then we will lead a response that makes our community proud,” she said in a statement.

A number of migrants sent to D.C. are staying at the NoMa Hampton Inn, previously a COVID-19 quarantine hotel, with financial support from the government. Bowser said the hotel would continue to serve as a temporary housing shelter for migrant families.

The new Office of Migrant Services will cost an initial $10 million and is authorized by the public emergency declaration, although Bowser is seeking to establish a more permanent framework for the office with D.C. Council members and secure reimbursement from the federal government.

The office will work to meet the buses coming into the city, facilitate travel outside of D.C. for families who want to leave and set up a “distinct” system to find housing and support other needs for migrants who want to stay.

Bowser said most migrants coming into the nation’s capital have left the city, which she said makes clear that GOP governors are putting pressure on D.C. for political reasons.

“They are targeting Washington, D.C. — not because of any particular ties that the people boarding the buses have to Washington, D.C. — but they want to make a point to the federal government,” Bowser said.

Tags buses Chicago Doug Ducey Doug Ducey Greg Abbott Greg Abbott migrants Muriel Bowser Muriel Bowser New York Washington DC

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