Editor of the Washington Bureau
Editor of the Washington Bureau
The mayor of the US capital Washington has declared a state of emergency after more than 9,000 migrants arrived in his city. For months, buses full of asylum seekers have been arriving from Texas and Arizona along the border with Mexico. The Republican governors of those states are trying to implement tougher immigration policies with President Biden.
To add to the pressure on Democratic Washington, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott arrived on two buses to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has now begun deporting immigrants from his state. He’s going a step further: DeSantis is sending two planes of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts where many wealthy Americans, including former President Obama, have vacation homes.
According to DeSantis, “Every community in this country, not just Republican states, has to shoulder the same burden.” By this he refers to border states like Texas and Arizona. The president accuses Governor Abbott of “endangering the lives of Texans and Americans.”
New York and Chicago have also seen the arrival of buses, albeit in smaller numbers. Mayors of three major cities call it a political event. “People are sheltering here and being treated this cruelly by the governor of Texas,” said New York Mayor Eric Adams.
It’s 7 a.m. in Washington, and a bus rounds the corner. About sixty immigrants walk out on the sidewalks of the Capitol. After a 40-hour journey they looked tired but relaxed. There was a brief hiatus on the way. Most have only a plastic bag with food or drink on hand, some have a Red Cross emergency bag.
Cousins Yibr (21) and Daniel (22) have been traveling from Venezuela for three months. Apart from Venezuela, migrants from this bus mainly come from Colombia and Peru. On the way they had to say goodbye to Daniel’s brother. Texas border guards separated them and put the brothers on a bus to Chicago.
Relatives say it was a difficult month, risking their lives and traveling on foot through forests, cities and eight countries. It was more difficult in Guatemala and Mexico. Their path was blocked several times and they had to bribe corrupt policemen.
They say several fellow passengers on the bus confronted them early on their route. It now feels like a family, which has become smaller and smaller with all the dangers along the way.
‘Very happy and hopeful’
Tatiana Laborde and her aid organization SAMU First Response wait for buses in the US capital. “The city is not ready for this, but we are trying with all our might to organize a good visit.” Among other things, Laborde and his colleagues offer a meal. They have a shelter that temporarily houses fifty migrants.
Laborde came to America 22 years ago. She finds what is happening now painful. “Every time I see a bus coming, it brings tears to my eyes because of the uncertainty and fear that people have to live with. However, the majority are happy and confident that they’ve arrived in this city, they don’t even realize they exist. It’s used as a political stunt.”
Extra money due to emergency
The White House responded strongly, calling the selections of three Republican governors “shameful, irresponsible and wrong.” But despite these denials, Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of Washington, is also disappointed with President Biden’s approach. His request to send in National Guard troops was rejected twice. The state of emergency declaration frees up tens of millions of dollars from the city’s coffers to improve reception.
Yibr and Daniel will not notice it. The ultimate goal has been reached, but uncertainty remains. All they have is a yellow envelope containing important documents that enter into a lengthy asylum procedure. In the coming weeks, Daniel especially hopes to soon be reunited with his brother, who has arrived in Chicago.
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