Bowser requests National Guard help for asylum seekers in DC

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is asking the Department of Defense to provide D.C. National Guard help with what she called a “growing humanitarian crisis” of asylum seekers who are being sent to the District from Arizona and Texas.

She is also asking the federal government to be involved to deal with the situation that she expects to escalate further.

Christopher Rodriguez, director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, wrote on behalf of Bowser to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, asking for 150 D.C. National Guard personnel per day to assist the lead NGO with staffing.

He also asked for National Guard transportation assets to shuttle migrants “to a temporary processing center at the D.C. Armory or another suitable federal location in the National Capital Region such as Joint Base Bolling or Fort McNair for reception and eventual onward movement to their final destinations.”

The situation started in April, when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced they would be busing asylum seekers from the southern border to D.C. in opposition to President Biden’s immigration policy.

Over 5,000 migrants have been bused from Texas since April, and over 1,100 from Arizona since May, to the city.

“In the last month, however, the pace of arriving buses and the volume of arrivals have reached tipping points,” Rodriguez wrote.

A number of nongovernmental organizations stepped up to meet and care for arriving migrants to the nation’s capital, as the city distributed almost $1 million in FEMA grants for the lead NGO’s staffing, facilities and transportation, Bowser said in a letter to the White House last week.

However, these organizations have been overwhelmed and underfunded, Bowser said in a letter to Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall, the assistant to the president for homeland security, and senior advisor to the president Julie Chavez Rodriguez. Bowser added that “placing responsibility for the response to this crisis on American cities is not the way to go.”

Bowser said at a news conference Thursday, “We know that the federal government does this because we see this type of response with Afghan refugees and now we see it with people who are coming to the United States from Ukraine.”

She added, “There is a robust federal response that helps people with transportation on to their final destinations, and even getting them a legal route to work into a work permit.”

In her letter, Bowser harshly criticizes Abbott and Ducey, accusing them of “cruel political gamesmanship” and saying the pair had “decided to use desperate people to score political points.”

Bowser does not have the authority to personally order a National Guard deployment, an issue that has become emotionally charged in recent years as a symbol of the District’s entrenched status as less than a state.

Her limited authority played a role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol building by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that the U.S. Capitol Police were overmatched by the crowds, Bowser couldn’t immediately deploy the district guard. Instead, crucial time was lost while the request was considered inside the Pentagon, and protesters rampaged through the building.

The D.C. mayor said she is looking forward to working with the Biden administration to get the D.C. National Guard and a federal facility to help migrants seeking asylum and a better life in the United States.

The volunteer group Sanctuary DMV expressed disappointment in Bowser’s move, saying she “has once again chosen a militarized response to a humanitarian issue.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tadiwos Abedje

Tadi Abedje is a freelance digital writer/editor for WTOP. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. Journalism has been his No. 1 passion since he was a kid and he is blessed to be around people, telling their stories and sharing them with the world.

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