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Advocates launch campaign to welcome migrants relocated north

Migrants sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott arrive near 30th Street Station Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. Abbott has sent the buses to Democratic-led cities as a way to maximize exposure over what he says is inaction by the Biden administration over high numbers of migrants crossing on the southern border. (AP Photo/Joe Lamberti)

An alliance of advocacy groups on Friday launched a campaign to counter the migrant busing policies of GOP officials like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by highlighting the massive civil society response to welcome migrants throughout the country.

The campaign, Choose Welcome, is being spearheaded by Families Belong Together, Community Change, Amnesty International and the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project.

“This is very much a campaign to help build power, and help enable anyone who wants to be a part of the welcoming efforts that have sprung up since the first bus got sent to DC back in April,” said Erin Mazursky, who heads Families Belong Together, an advocacy project that started as a response to the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

The campaign website features a map highlighting individuals, organizations and elected officials who have in some way contributed to welcoming migrants bused or flown north by Republican governors.

For instance, the map shows a blue dot — representing an elected official — over Syracuse, N.Y.

Clicking on the dot leads to a local news story about Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh speaking out in favor of welcoming migrants, and Syracuse’s sanctuary policies.

“Anytime we have refugees coming into this country, we want to make sure the federal government knows that Syracuse is a welcoming place and will work hand and hand with them to make sure that we are helping these humans that are in crisis,” Walsh told Spectrum News 1 in September.

The campaign also helps highlight individuals and organizations that have rendered aid, both short and long term, to migrants arriving in their cities and towns.

That aid, Mazursky said, has remained strong since Abbott first started busing people north in April.

“What’s been really incredible with the busing is that literally with every single bus, every single plane, there’s been people waiting and willing to welcome, and we expect that will continue into the future, especially since it appears that Abbott’s been reinvigorated by his reelection and within days, expanded to yet another city, to Philadelphia,” said Mazursky.

And while the campaign intends to show the busing program’s effort to portray migrants as a burden has backfired, Mazursky said advocacy groups are not against the busing itself.

“In some ways, we actually don’t disagree with the busing, and with the idea that there should be more parts of the country helping to welcome migrants — we disagree with the political games that are being played by the busing and the planning,” Mazursky said.

The migrant relocation policies have proven popular among the base supporting Abbott and DeSantis, both of whom handily won reelection this month, but advocates have warned that the lack of coordination with receiving cities and the lack of transparency in the relocation policies have unnecessarily endangered migrants’ lives.

In the latest bus sent north from Texas, a 10-year-old girl was hospitalized shortly after arriving in Philadelphia with a high fever and dehydration.

“There’s a 10-year-old who’s completely dehydrated. It’s one of the more inhumane aspects that they would put a child who was dehydrated with a fever now, a very high fever (on the bus),” Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The 28 people aboard that bus were met in Philadelphia by city officials and volunteers ready with blankets, food and a plan to shelter the migrants.

While civil society and local government assistance has been consistently available to migrants relocated north, the Choose Welcome campaign is also seeking to institutionalize some of that aid.

To that end, the campaign has three public demands: to grant immediate access to basic services and work permits for asylum applicants, federal funding to help civil society welcome migrants and a full restoration of asylum rights at the border.

“What Choose Welcome is trying to do is show that we have that capacity across the country in everyday people who want to show up, want to welcome people with open arms and who want to help sustain that [aid],” Mazursky said.

“When you have community-led systems in place that are then supported and buttressed by the government, you have a system that is more humane and people coming here have more opportunities to succeed over the long term.”

Tags #ChooseWelcome Amnesty International asylum rights Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project Ben Walsh Community Change Erin Mazursky Families Belong Together Florida Greg Abbott Greg Abbott immigration migrant relocation Philadelphia Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis sanctuary cities Syracuse Texas Trump administration
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