Defense Department again turns down DC mayor’s request for help with arriving immigrants

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) speaks during a ceremony to unveil a statue of Pierre L'Enfant by artist Gordon Kray on Monday, February 28, 2022.
Greg Nash

The Department of Defense on Monday denied a second request from Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to deploy the D.C. National Guard and use the D.C. Armory to help with migrants being bused into the city from Texas and Arizona. 

In a letter reviewed by The Hill, Pentagon Executive Secretary Kelly Bulliner Holly said deploying the Guard would be “inappropriate to the task, regardless of the duration or number of personnel involved.” 

The D.C. Guard “has no specific experience in or training for this kind of mission or unique skills for providing facility management, feeding, sanitation, or ground support,” Holly continued.  

In response to the denial, Bowser said on Twitter that the city will “move forward with our planning to ensure that when people are coming through DC on their way to their final destination that we have a humane setting for them.”  

The D.C. mayor initially asked for help in July as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) bused thousands of migrants into the city to protest President Biden’s border policies.  

The Pentagon initially turned down Bowser’s request to deploy Guard troops earlier in August, citing concerns that doing so would negatively impact the Guard’s readiness.  

Bowser later renewed her request for the National Guard and Armory on Aug. 11, saying that the Guard would work with the D.C. government to help establish and manage “respite sites,” which would support migrants as they travel to their final destination, outside of the District.  

The mayor also said that assistance would begin on Monday and would be reevaluated in December.  

In turning down the request again, Holly reaffirmed the agency’s concerns about how deploying Guard troops would impact its readiness and reiterated that nongovernmental organizations were assisting with migrants. In the event that local organizations can’t meet requirements, Holly said D.C. could apply directly to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency funding.

As for use of the D.C. Armory, Holly said its design and suitability “rules it out as an option,” as it is not air conditioned and has to undergo “substantial remediation” for a number of issues.  

Bowser said the city would “continue working with federal partners and local NGOs on the best way to set up systems that allow us to manage an ongoing humanitarian crisis.”  

“As we do that, we remain focused on working with District agencies and local providers to ensure our local systems can continue to function and that we can continue to meet the very real and significant needs of DC residents,” she added.  

Tags Arizona Biden Doug Ducey Doug Ducey Greg Abbott Greg Abbott Immigration Migrant bussing Muriel Bowser Muriel Bowser National Guard Texas Washington D.C.

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