WASHINGTON – More than 100 migrants arrived near US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ home on Saturday evening, one of the chilliest Christmas Eves on record in the capital, according to a mutual aid group.
Volunteers anticipated three buses with about 130 immigrants to arrive in New York on Christmas Day, but the buses were rerouted to the Washington area because of road closures and frigid conditions, said Ms Madhvi Bahl, an organiser with the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network.
Migrants arrived in Washington after a 36-hour journey, some with little more than a T-shirt or a light blanket, she added. The mutual aid group helped coordinate travel and housing for the migrants and provided food, coats, shoes and other warm articles of clothing to combat temperatures that plunged below 20 degrees.
The mutual aid group said the buses were sent by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which follows directives of Governor Greg Abbott’s office. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“They have been doing that for a few months now; it’s all for the spectacle,” Ms Bahl said of the governor’s office. “The cruelty is the point. It’s awful to use people in this manner, for political reasons.”
The three buses appeared to be the latest sent by Republican governors along the southern border to Democratic-led cities, and the scores of migrants were not the first to be dropped off near Harris’ home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory.
Mr Abbott announced the state would begin chartering buses in April, sending a political message to places such as Washington, New York and Chicago and offloading some of the strain caused by record levels of immigration.
In a letter to President Joe Biden last week, Mr Abbott criticised the president’s border policies and said the influx left migrants “at risk of freezing to death on city streets”.
“Texas has borne a lopsided burden caused by your open border policies,” he wrote. “The need to address this crisis is not the job of border states like Texas.”
Mr Abbott’s concerns included the potential lifting of Title 42, a pandemic-era public health policy that allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants.
Thousands of migrants were waiting across the Texas border on Wednesday, when the policy was set to expire and bring an expected surge in border crossings. However, the Supreme Court ordered a delay of the policy’s end date, keeping the health order in place for at least several more days.
The White House condemned the bussing of migrants to Washington in a statement on Christmas Day.
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