DC-area leaders look for more cooperation, funding to deal with migrant surge

Nearly every day, buses bearing asylum-seeking migrants arrive at D.C.’s Union Station from Texas and Arizona.

The Washington Metro Council of Governments met on Friday to discuss ways to increase cooperation and expand resources to handle the surge. D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau said more than 100 buses have arrived since April.

“Often, these migrants arrive with only the clothes they’re wearing, with no way to continue their travel to their sponsors due to the lack of resources,” Nadeau said.

During the meeting, the council heard from volunteers who said their organizations are overwhelmed.

“About half of the buses are arriving in the evenings and then migrants step off tired, traumatized and really with nowhere for respite,” said Amy Fischer of the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network. “There’s literally nowhere for them to go. We pull resources to put them in hotels, but it’s costly, and this is really why it’s so important for local governments to step in — to help with shelter, respite space and other resources.”

Fischer said the region is relying on volunteer networks to carry the load. Last week, when volunteers had to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, there was no one to help arriving migrants.

“What we found after returning two days later, were dozens of asylum-seekers, stranded and sleeping at Union Station,” said Fischer.

The council voted on and passed a resolution supporting efforts by D.C. Del Eleanor Holmes Norton to introduce a bill to secure additional humanitarian aid for migrants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter program, and to further explore opportunities to increase partnerships and coordinating efforts with relief agencies.

About 5,200 migrants have been bused from Texas since April. and more than 1,100 from Arizona since May. The governors call the practice a voluntary free ride that gets migrants closer to family or support networks.

“By busing migrants to Washington, D.C., Texas is sending a clear message: We should not have to bear the burden of the federal government’s inaction to secure the border, and the Lone Star State will do whatever it takes to keep Texans safe,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in April.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called the migrant surge a “significant issue” on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday and pressed the federal government to provide more financial support.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this week that the administration was looking into the mayor’s concerns.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were over 200,000 migrant encounters at the southern border last month, a record high number for June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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