White House frustrated as Washington mayor seeks troops to help manage migrants
WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Thousands of migrants bused to Washington in recent months by Republican governors of states on the U.S.-Mexico border have sparked tensions between the White House and the U.S. capital’s Democratic mayor, four U.S. officials told Reuters. .
Last week, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called on President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, to mobilize the National Guard to provide aid and shelter to migrants arriving after long journeys from Texas and Arizona. White House officials and Washington-area volunteers helping migrants express frustration, saying the aid is unnecessary and the request, which became public last week, plays into the hands of Republican critics of Biden . Read more
“What people really need is housing, transportation to their next towns, legal services and direct social services, which the military is not really trained to do,” he said. said Ashley Tjhung, a 24-year-old volunteer.
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The vast majority of migrants arriving in Washington only spend hours or days there before heading to other US destinations, according to an ad hoc network of volunteers.
Republican Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona have sent about 7,000 migrants in recent months, the states said. Read more
Just after sunrise on Friday, about 30 migrants disembarked from a charter bus near Washington’s Union Station after a 36-hour drive from Del Rio, Texas, carrying their meager belongings in see-through plastic bags.
The group included adults and families with young children from Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua and Cuba. They made their way to a nearby church, taking photos of the United States Capitol building and the Supreme Court along the way.
In the basement of the church, volunteers offered them breakfast, toothbrushes and clean clothes as they asked about their medical needs and helped them get to New York, Carolina North and Florida.
“We had constructive conversations with Mayor Bowser and his team,” a White House spokesman told Reuters. “As we’ve said many times, Republican governors are using desperate migrants as political tools, it’s shameful.”
Bowser’s office did not respond to requests for comment regarding the tensions. In a July 22 letter to White House officials, Bowser said the issue “must be addressed at the federal level.”
Other American cities are absorbing thousands of migrants without the help of military troops. Since Biden took office, there have been a record 3 million migrant arrests at the US-Mexico border; many are recrosses who are quickly expelled. During the same period, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been allowed to enter the country and then often begin the process of seeking asylum in the United States.
White House officials disagree with Bowser’s description of migrant arrivals as a “crisis,” which echoes Abbott’s language on the border, three officials and another source familiar with the matter said. .
“The message and the optics are not what the White House wants to hear or see from a Democratic mayor,” said a US official who, along with others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal consensus.
Biden’s senior adviser, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, had worked with Bowser, the person familiar with the matter said, which made the request for troops even more cumbersome.
Washington is not a US state or part of it, so the power to summon National Guard troops rests with the US military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin takes Bowser’s request for troops “very seriously”, according to a spokesperson.
In recent weeks, New York City Mayor Eric Adams also said border migrants were overwhelming homeless shelters in the city and asked for help from the federal government.
On Friday, volunteers in Washington bought same-day bus tickets to New York for several arriving migrants, including a Venezuelan family who had the address of a Bronx reception center scribbled on a piece of paper.
A small number of arriving migrants said they planned to stay in Washington.
Among them were Colombian couple Juan Camilo Mendoza and Noralis Zuniga, who were traveling with their one-year-old daughter, Evangeline. They arrived in Texas after a grueling three-month journey that took them through the Darien Gap, a stretch of lawless mountainous jungle between Colombia and Panama where migrant smuggling has surged in recent months. Read more
The couple have no family or friends in the United States and came without a specific destination, a growing phenomenon among those arriving in Washington, according to a volunteer.
“We just said, ‘We’re going to the United States.’ We didn’t have a city,” said Mendoza, a 24-year-old construction worker. “If we can find work, we will stay here.”
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Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Kristina Cooke, Mica Rosenberg and David Gregorio
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