Pentagon again rejects DC mayor’s request for help with migrants

Immigration
Migrants hold Red Cross blankets after arriving at D.C.’s Union Station in this April file photo. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

As Arizona and Texas continue to bus migrants into D.C., the Defense Department has again rejected Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for “logistical support” from D.C.’s National Guard.

The mayor’s office made a revised request this month after the department previously turned down a July 19 request. According to Bowser, it was because her first request was too open-ended; the Associated Press reported that it was because the Pentagon believed FEMA funding was sufficient.

Bowser’s Aug. 11 request was for a 90-day deployment of National Guard members. But in a letter Monday, the department said that D.C.’s National Guard would be “inappropriate to the task” regardless of duration, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by WTOP.

“DCNG has no specific experience in or training for this kind of mission or unique skills for providing facility management, feeding, sanitation or ground support,” the letter stated, adding that such an extended mission would disrupt military training.

The department also said that the network of civilian government organizations and nongovernmental organizations dealing with the situation is “taking appropriate actions, and adjusting to an evolving situation to address those challenges, backed by federal grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

Bowser had requested use of the D.C. Armory as a processing center, but the Pentagon said it is not ready and, currently, not even air conditioned. “Significant costs and time are required to make the facility suitable for overnight stays,” the department wrote.

While governors don’t need federal approval to call up members of the National Guard in their state, Bowser needs Pentagon approval because D.C. is not a state.

Earlier Monday, the mayor said she had not heard back from the Defense Department yet, but she elaborated on the situation D.C. faces as buses of migrants continue to arrive in the District.

“Right now we’re dealing with a politically motivated policy emergency, and we think it can be a crisis in our city,” she said at a news conference on housing. “That’s why we’ve asked for federal support and we will continue to do that.”

In a series of tweets Monday evening, the mayor said she will move forward with planning to ensure migrants have a “humane setting” when coming through the District en route to their final destination.

“We will 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,” Bowser tweeted. “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.”

 

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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