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Governors’ immigrant-busing strategy hits home for mayors

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Posted at 3:48 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 16:48:11-04

Two Republican border-state governors who are investing billions of dollars in immigration enforcement and spending hours at the podium blasting Biden administration policies have found indirect support for their arguments from two unlikely sources: Democratic Mayors Muriel Bowser, of Washington, and Eric Adams, of New York.

The mayors’ recent overtures for federal aid came in response to Texas and Arizona busing migrants away from the border, a months-old practice that has been long on political theater but short on practical impact.

While city leaders strongly criticize Govs. Greg Abbott, of Texas, and Doug Ducey, of Arizona, their requests for money have bolstered the governors’ narratives about immigration putting unusual strains on American communities, even though Adams said — incorrectly — Tuesday that the two states are paying migrants to go to New York.

Washington Mayor Bowser says asylum-seekers are being “tricked” with free bus rides that don’t get close enough to their final destinations, leaving many at Union Station, near the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

“This is a very significant issue,” Bowser said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Under pressure to provide financial support, Bowser says she wants the federal government to help. The City Council told the mayor last week that volunteer groups are “burned out and overwhelmed.”

“Now that the border has come to D.C., it is our responsibility to meet the moment,” the council members wrote, while also castigating Abbott and Ducey for showing “no regard for people who are exercising their human right to seek asylum.”

Republicans who have sharply critical of the White House have barely contained their glee.

“Looks like Mayor Bowser is starting to feel a glimpse of what it’s like to be a border community under the #BidenBorderCrisis,” Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee wrote. “Doesn’t feel great, does it?”

Ducey seized on Adams’ incorrect statement that Arizona was busing migrants to New York, noting it was sending them only to Washington.

“Mayor Adams needs to get his facts straight and pay closer attention to what’s really occurring because our nation’s security depends on it,” he wrote on Twitter.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that the administration was looking into the mayors’ concerns. She said it was “shameful that some governors are using migrants as a political tool, as a political play.”

The state of Texas has voluntarily bused more than 6,000 migrants to Washington since mid-April as Abbott casts himself as a counterweight to Biden on immigration, insisting that “every American community is a border community.”

Abbott’s busing is just one element of an increasingly aggressive expansion of his immigration enforcement powers into the traditional domain of U.S. government. Abbott authorized state forces this month to apprehend migrants and return them to the U.S.-Mexico border, where Texas has spent more than $3 billion in state funds on a massive security apparatus, without stemming the flow of migrants.

Arizona says it has bused 1,151 migrants to Washington since May. About one of every four named New York as their destination, about one in five says New Jersey, and many of the rest were headed to Georgia or stay in Washington.

The Border Patrol stopped migrants nearly 193,000 times in June, the first decline after four straight monthly increases. Those numbers, hovering near the highest levels in two decades, show how little impact the bus rides have on overall migration flows.

The United States has been the world’s top destination for asylum-seekers since 2017, according to the United Nations’ human rights agency, a daunting challenge that has dogged Biden and his immediate predecessors, Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

A pandemic-related rule denies a chance at asylum to many migrants on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19, but Title 42, as it is known, has been applied unevenly. Tens of thousands are released each month on humanitarian parole or with notices to appear in immigration court.

Adams says New York has experienced a “sharp increase” in asylum seekers entering its shelters of about 2,800 people in recent weeks, in a city with a legal obligation to provide high-quality aid to indigent people. He called for a probe into whether other states are directing asylum seekers to New York.

In New York City, asylum-seekers are fixtures at shelters as they seek out a footing in the economy.