Washington mayor declares state of emergency to aid migrants

Immigration

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday declared a public emergency as buses of migrants are being sent by to the nation’s capital by Republican governors in Texas and Arizona. The move would help “triage the needs of people arriving” in the city, according to the mayor.

The declaration allows Bowser to create an Office of Migrant Services and allocate funds toward that department. She said the office will support the needs of migrants during a “humanitarian crisis.”

“With this plan, we are staying true to our DC values and building a system that will support a compassionate, consistent, and well-coordinated response,” the mayor said in a news release. “This is a new challenge for DC, but I feel confident that if we lead with our values, and if we put the right systems in place — which we are doing with the Office of Migrant Services, then we will lead a response that makes our community proud.”

The program, according to the mayor, will be different from the city’s homeless services system.

The Pentagon has denied multiple requests from Washington seeking National Guard assistance in providing aid to the thousands of migrants.

The U.S. Department of Defense said the use of the D.C. National Guard would be inappropriate and would hurt the overall readiness of the troops, forcing some to cancel or disrupt military training. The department is also concerned about putting uniformed military members in direct contact with migrants to provide food, sanitation or other support, saying the troops have no real experience or training for that mission.

When the Defense Department rejected the first request, officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) food and shelter program has provided funding for the problem and has indicated those funds are sufficient at this point. 

During the spring, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans, announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers by denying them a chance to seek asylum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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