(NewsNation) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin turned down a request from Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser to deploy the National Guard to help with migrants being bussed into the area from Texas and Arizona, The Hill reported Friday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have been sending busloads of migrants to D.C. in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers.
Bowser sharply criticized Abbott and Ducey, saying the pair had “decided to use desperate people to score political points.”
Bowser, a Democrat, requested the assistance in July, telling the White House she needed 150 National Guard members per day as well as a “suitable federal location” for a mass housing and processing center.
Some critics, including Republican state and local officials, have called Abbott’s plan to bus migrants “political theater” according to NPR, while CNN reports that city officials and non-government organizations have become concerned about the pace of arrivals over recent weeks.
As of mid-July, about 5,200 migrants had been bused from Texas to D.C. since April. As of Aug. 3, more than 1,300 had been sent from Arizona since May.
“We need a place where we can receive them, give them a meal, and actually help them plan their next step,” Abel Nuñez, head of the Central American Resource Center which is one of the organizations helping people being bussed to D.C., told NPR. “Even if that means staying in the D.C. area.”
A coalition of local charitable groups has been working to feed and shelter the migrants, aided by a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, organizers have warned that both resources, and personnel, are nearing exhaustion.
“We have now bussed over 6,500 migrants to Washington, D.C. and they cannot handle that number, which we deal with every single day,” Abbott said. On Friday, Abbott said the first group of migrants from Texas had now been bused to New York as well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.