Political battle heats up as D.C. and New York City mayors respond to GOP governors’ policy of sending migrants to their cities

“When we saw Ukrainian and Russian asylum seekers at the border, the U.S. and Mexico worked quickly to get them to safety…It would be nice to see the government at the state and federal level respond in a similar fashion to asylum seekers who are not white,” said Ari Sawyer, U.S. border researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Immigrants wait to board a U.S. Border Patrol bus to be taken for processing after crossing the border from Mexico on May 18, 2022 in Yuma, Arizona. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Tensions are running high as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) continue to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Since April, the governors have sent more than 6,500 migrants to the sanctuary cities as an act of retaliation after President Joe Biden lifted Title 42, a health order that prevented a large number of migrants from seeking asylum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent weeks, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) have both criticized the Republican governors for their actions. According to Politico, Adams has called this move “horrific” and “unimaginable.” During a press conference Tuesday, the mayor said, “I already called all of my friends in Texas and told them how to cast their vote.”

He added, “I am deeply contemplating taking a busload of New Yorkers to go to Texas and do some good old-fashioned door knocking. Because for the good of America, we have to get him out of office.”

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser was denied a request for National Guard help to handle the influx of migrants bused into her city. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Last month, Bowser asked the Biden administration to deploy 150 National Guards members to the city daily for an unspecified amount of time, the Associated Press reported. On Aug. 5, the Pentagon denied Bowser’s request for assistance, contending the city is well-equipped to handle the influx of migrants being bused to the district.

In a statement obtained by theGrio, a Defense Department spokesperson wrote, “The Secretary of Defense has declined to approve the DCHSEMA request … we have determined providing this support would negatively impact the readiness of the [D.C. National Guard] and have negative effects on the organization and members.”

Ari Sawyer, U.S. border researcher at Human Rights Watch, told theGrio, “Rhetoric that we’re seeing from the D.C. mayor is concerning, like this effort to mobilize the U.S. National Guard. I’m glad the Pentagon turned them down using more law enforcement, like all around. It’s just, like, not the appropriate response.”

Although the Biden administration denied Bowser’s request, Sawyer believes Biden is doing a “pretty bad” job of handling the immigration crisis.  

“It is the lack of action, the failure on the part of the Biden administration to take principled responses and to step in and act, that has made this sort of policy possible in the first place. Yet further failing to respond or to step in and take corrective action will definitely set a dangerous precedent,” they said.

Sawyer said this situation is reminiscent of the Del Rio, Texas, incident that took place between Border Patrol agents and Haitian migrants in September 2021.

“Thousands of Haitian asylum-seekers were gathered near Del Rio, Texas, and the Biden administration essentially leaned on Border Patrol to respond to what was a humanitarian crisis. [Border Patrol] is an agency tasked with enforcing and really has no business and no training in mounting a humanitarian response,” they said.

Sawyer added that after speaking with former Border Patrol agents, “the Biden administration could have within a week had FEMA mobilized down there, water trucks, tents and food and chose not to. I think this is like another one of those cases where the administration is dropping the ball in failing to mount an appropriate response.”

The Biden administration “leaned on Border Patrol to respond to what was a humanitarian crisis” in Del Rio, Texas, where thousands of Haitian migrants were gathered last year, a Human Rights Watch lawyer contends. (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

Sawyer believes government officials should be able to find a more “humane response” as it pertains to dealing with immigration.

“We can and should help people get to where they need to go so that they’re not at risk of trafficking or other abuses by state agencies with no real oversight mechanisms and no training into immigration policy or how to care for children or vulnerable asylum seekers,” they said.

Sawyer told theGrio that Abbott and Ducey are setting a dangerous precedent and that their actions are motivated by racism. 

“When we saw Ukrainian and Russian asylum seekers at the border, the U.S. and Mexico worked quickly to get them to safety and across the border. They have all the support and work as they should. It would be nice to see the government at the state and federal level respond in similar fashion to asylum seekers who are not white,” they said.

Ukrainians and Russians seeking asylum in the United States “have all the support they need,” said Human Rights Watch’s Ari Sawyer, who sees a difference in how Haitian and other migrants are treated. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Sawyer continued, “Abbott is using human beings as cannon fodder for his reelection campaign. That’s what it comes down to at the expense of not only the people but Texas state taxpayers, who are paying for these busses.”

They explained that migrants entering through the U.S.-Mexico border are oftentimes “fleeing political violence. They’re being targeted because their politics or their activism is not in line with the government. We have countries in Central America that are sort of overrun by organized crime, making it difficult for them to find safety in their country of origin.”

Sawyer added that the migrants being sent to Washington, D.C., and New York have “been processed by the Department of Homeland Security” and were tricked “into getting onto buses for political purposes and acts motivated by racism.”

In the past, Sawyer said, Republicans like Abbott and Ducey have been vocal about their anti-immigration ideology and have accused migrants of invading the U.S. and creating mayhem. 

An improvised housing camp in Tijuana, Mexico, for Central American migrants waiting for the U.S. authorities to allow them to enter to begin their process of asylum. Some migrants have been tricked into getting on buses to New York and Washington, lawyer Ari Sawyer says. (Photo by Francisco Vega/Getty Images)

These constant claims of invasion are the type of rhetoric that fuels white supremacist violence like the Walmart shooting that we saw in El Paso, Texas, where we saw a gunman repeat the same rhetoric used by Abbott,” Sawyer said.

They added that asylum seekers “have plans, they have hopes, and they have needs. So what Texas is doing here, like Arizona, is clearly undermining those things. It’s a total lack of respect for their humanity and self-determination.”

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