D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public emergency Thursday over the surge of illegal immigrants arriving in the nation’s capital, calling it “a crisis that is certainly not of our making” and tapping millions of dollars in aid to help house and feed the newcomers.
She said the money will go to creating an emergency office to receive the migrants as they arrive and help connect them with services.
The mayor said she will seek reimbursement from the federal government for the money. She blamed the Biden administration and border state governors for dumping the problem into her lap.
“We have no control on all that is coming towards the District, but we do have control on how we make sure that our values are present in all that we do,” Ms. Bowser said.
She said she was responding to some 9,400 migrants that Arizona and Texas have bused into the District of Columbia since April.
Her emergency declaration seemed to confirm the claims of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey that the current migrant surge is unprecedented and is straining localities in ways never before seen.
SEE ALSO: Feds reject D.C.’s second request for National Guard help to handle migrants from Texas, Arizona
It also signaled that their busing plans have worked to spread the burden of new arrivals.
“In many ways, the governors of Texas and Arizona have turned us into a border town,” said Brianne Nadeau, a member of the D.C. Council who stood with Ms. Bowser at her announcement.
Though the number of illegal immigrants has dipped from all-time monthly highs this spring, border encounters are still running at a near-record pace. In July, Customs and Border Protection recorded nearly 200,000 encounters with unauthorized migrants.
Well more than half of them were quickly released into the country, overwhelming communities in border states.
In April, Mr. Abbott began busing them to the District and dropping them off at Union Station, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol. He said his goal was to give Washington politicians an up-close look at what his state is facing.
Mr. Abbott then put New York on his destination list and just weeks ago added Chicago.
SEE ALSO: D.C. offers new grants of up to $150K for nonprofits aiding migrants bused from Texas, Arizona
Mr. Ducey began his own busing route after Mr. Abbott.
Ms. Bowser suggested that the states have “tricked or lied to” migrants to get them onto the buses, though she did not offer any evidence.
Those involved in Texas’ busing operation say migrants have been happy to board the buses, which deliver them closer to their final destinations.
On that, Ms. Bowser agreed. She said most of those arriving in the District will go on to other places.
The city currently counts 94 migrant families — 348 people in total — staying in hotels at a cost to the city government. She said roughly 70 migrant children have enrolled in D.C. public schools.
The mayor’s public emergency declaration lasts 15 days. She said it gives her some administrative powers to grapple with the situation.
“We’re not a border town. And so basically what we’re doing today is a new normal for us,” she said. “We have to have an infrastructure in place that allows us to deal with the border crisis that has visited us in Washington, D.C.”
She said the city will maintain an around-the-clock presence at Union Station to be ready to welcome any buses that arrive. The city is also searching for another site to house migrants.
Republicans said the mayor’s declaration is proof that the Biden administration has bungled the border situation.
They highlighted D.C. officials’ use of the word “crisis” — a term the Biden administration has avoided — to describe the several thousand migrants they have received.
“It only took 17 months,” the Republican National Committee said.
Ms. Bowser has been pleading for months for assistance from the Biden administration. She has asked for money and for the president to authorize the use of the National Guard.
She said she was “very disappointed” in Mr. Biden and the White House for not delivering.
New York Mayor Eric Adams has also demanded federal assistance to deal with the migrants reaching his city.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has taken a different approach and said the busing gives her city a chance to live its welcoming values.
She did find time to chide Mr. Abbott for the busing by saying, “This is not the Christianity and the teachings of the Bible that I know.”