By Lolita C. Baldor | concerned body
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has rejected a request from the District of Columbia for National Guard assistance amid what the mayor called a “growing humanitarian crisis” that is driving thousands of migrants to the city from two southern states.
According to U.S. defense officials, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin refused to provide guard personnel and use the DC Armory to help welcome refugees into the city. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the district may send an amended, “more specific” request, adding that she believes this is the first time a D.C. request for the National Guard has been denied. .
One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the decision, which has not yet been made public, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Food and Shelter Program provided funding for the issue. , and has indicated that those funds are currently sufficient.
Bowser, the district’s Democratic mayor, last month formally asked the White House for an open deployment of 150 National Guard members per day, as well as an “appropriate federal location” for the massive housing and processing center, which includes D.C. Armory was mentioned. logical candidate.
During the spring, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, both Republicans, sent busloads of immigrants to Washington, D.C., in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order. Announced plan that restricted immigration. By denying entry numbers the opportunity to seek asylum. The rule is enforced under a court order.
On Friday, Abbott said the first group of immigrants from his state had now been bussed to New York.
As of mid-July, nearly 5,200 immigrants had been bussed from Texas to D.C. since April. As of Aug. 3, more than 1,300 have been shipped from Arizona since May. Governors call the practice voluntary free rides — paid for by state taxpayers — that bring immigrants closer to family or support networks.
But Bowser rejected that characterization last month, saying asylum seekers were being “cheated,” as many never made it to their final destinations and some ended up in unions near the U.S. Capitol and the White House. is dumped at the station. Often they come without resources and no clue as to what to do next.
On Friday, Bowser told reporters that the Pentagon “appears to be concerned about the open-ended nature of our request.” And that a more specific one would help.
“We want to continue to work with the Department of Defense to make sure they understand our operational needs and ensure that political considerations are not part of their decision,” Bowser said, adding that he believes That the “crisis” will escalate. “We need a National Guard. If we were a state, I would have done it already.
A coalition of local charitable groups is working to feed and shelter refugees, supported by a $1 million grant from FEMA. But organizers are warning that both their resources and staff were close to exhaustion.
“This reliance on NGOs is not working and is unsustainable — they are overwhelmed and underfunded,” Bowser said in his letter. He has repeatedly said the influx is straining his government’s ability to care for its homeless residents and that a federal response is now needed.
Bowser slammed Abbott and Ducey, accusing them of “cruel political gamesmanship” and saying the pair “decided to use desperate people to score political points.”
Explaining his decision to include New York City as a destination, Abbott said that Biden’s “refusal to acknowledge the crisis caused by his open border policies” made Texas “safe for our communities.” forced to take unprecedented measures to keep
He said that the migrants are being dropped at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Abbott said, “In addition to Washington, D.C., New York City is an ideal destination for immigrants, who can access the wealth of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has touted within the Sanctuary City.” “
In response, Adams’ spokeswoman, Fabian Levy, tweeted that Abbott’s “continued use of human beings as political pawns is despicable. NYC will continue to welcome asylum seekers with open arms, as we always have.” Yes, but we still need support from DC.”
As D.C. mayor, Bowser does not have the authority to personally order the deployment of the National Guard, an issue that has become emotionally charged in recent years as a symbol of the District’s lesser status than the state. has gone
His limited powers contributed to the January 6, 2021 uprising at the US Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that the Capitol Police were outmatched by the mob, Bowser could not immediately deploy the District Guard. Instead, critical time was lost inside the Pentagon considering the request, and protesters stormed the building.
Associated Press writers Ashraf Khalil in Washington, Karen Matthews in New York City and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.