DC, Chicago, NY lawmakers call for $50 million for bused migrants

Migrants load a bus to take them to a refugee center outside Union Station in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (Anthony Vazquez /Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

A group of House Democrats on Friday called on Congress to provide $50 million in federal funding to house and feed migrants bused to northern cities from Texas and Arizona.

In a letter led by Reps. Jesús García (Ill.) and Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.) and District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, 23 Democrats called on heads of the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee to add the funds to the 2023 budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP).

“In a cynical political stunt that has exploited both vulnerable migrants and D.C., the governors of Texas and Arizona have bused thousands of migrants to D.C., Chicago, and New York City in the last several months,” said Norton, the nonvoting representative of the first city targeted by the busing program.

The lawmakers called on their colleagues to increase funding for the EFSP, given that the busing program has increased demand for emergency food and shelter in northern cities.

“The EFSP provides federal funding for food, shelter and other necessities. In FY [fiscal year] 2022, Congress provided $150 million to this program for humanitarian assistance for migrants. As of July 21, 2022, approximately $85 million of this funding remained available. However, the busing of migrants to D.C., New York City and Chicago and resettlement in cities like Boston has increased funding requests across the Northeast and the Midwest. Without additional funding, the EFSP may exhaust its funding,” wrote the lawmakers.

Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) started busing asylum seekers to northern cities and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) followed suit, more than 10,000 people have been bused to Washington, D.C., and thousands more to New York and Chicago.

“Playing politics with the lives of these immigrants is dehumanizing and cruel, but not unexpected from the xenophobic, fear-mongering politics of Governor Abbot,” said García, who represents a majority-Hispanic district in Chicago.

“While Chicago remains committed to welcoming these new arrivals, we must ensure their food, shelter and other basic needs are covered,” he added.

Texas alone has spent about $12 million on the program, about $1,300 per migrant, according to a report by the El Paso Times.

In announcing Operation Lone Star, Texas’s plan to reduce border crossings, Abbott called out Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), saying she “loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status.”

“I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them,” added Abbott.

Migrant advocacy groups have criticized the busing program both for its cost and for creating a sense that the migrants — asylum seekers released by border officials pending their immigration cases — represent a threat.

“Instead of helping forge immigration solutions that work for Texas and the country, Gov. Abbott’s stunts are costly, ineffective, distracting and dangerous. They’re meant to create headlines and whip up resentment from the MAGA base rather than create good policy or advance the best interests of Texans, let alone immigrants and asylum seekers,” said Mario Carrillo, campaigns director for America’s Voice, a progressive immigration advocacy group.

Through the busing program, Republicans like Abbott are attempting to prove a point that immigration hurts the economies of border states, despite the fact that asylum seekers often relocate away from those states on their own volition.

While officials in cities like D.C. have said they welcome migrants with open arms, they have also publicly bemoaned the lack of resources to provide for new arrivals.

On Thursday, D.C. declared a 15-day public emergency to reallocate funds and coordinate with nonprofit groups to feed and house the newly arrived migrants.

“As Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues to play political games with thousands of migrant lives, our response must be swift and robust to ensure that sanctuary cities have adequate resources to provide humanitarian assistance for displaced individuals seeking asylum here in our nation,” said Espaillat. 

“When thousands of migrants began to arrive to New York City, we welcomed them with open arms and connected them to viable resources. Our request for this emergency funding will be put to even greater use in helping bolster programs vital in our efforts in providing aid and assistance for the vulnerable individuals and families seeking our support at this critical moment,” he added.

Tags Adriano Espaillat Adriano Espaillat Chicago Doug Ducey Eleanor Holmes Norton Eleanor Holmes Norton Greg Abbott Jesús García Lori Lightfoot New York City Washington D.C.

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