Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday that the influx of migrants bused to the sanctuary city caused a public emergency. As a result, the mayor introduced plans to establish an Office of Migrant Services to provide additional assistance to the individuals.
In a November 2016 statement, Bowser reaffirmed Washington D.C. as a sanctuary city, noting, "We celebrate our diversity and respect all DC residents no matter their immigration status."
Since April 2022, Texas and Arizona have reportedly been sending approximately 9,400 migrants on buses to the D.C. area.
During the Thursday news conference, Bowser gave her thoughts on why Texas and Arizona officials are sending migrants to the capital. "We know that they are targeting Washington D.C., not because of any particular ties that the people boarding the buses have to Washington D.C., but they want to make a political point to the federal government."
"Some people are taking this ride to get to their destinations along the way because it gets them closer to their final destination," said Bowser. "And some, because they have nowhere else to go and, quite frankly, I believe that some are being tricked or lied to."
Bowser asked for additional support from the federal government and said she thought it could be doing more to help the capital.
The mayor requested help from the National Guard twice, but the Department of Defense denied the assistance both times.
By declaring a public state of emergency, Bowser gains additional administrative authority to temporarily make decisions that her position would not otherwise grant, WTTG-TV reported.
The emergency status also extends additional decision-making powers to the Director of the Department of Human Services, the City Administrator, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Procurement Officer to allocate funding, assign resources, and create and modify programs.
The state of public emergency lasts 15 days, but Bowser has requested that the D.C. Council extend it. The mayor said she plans to send emergency legislation to codify the new provisions.
Bowser declared that the city will allocate an initial $10 million to the new Office of Migrant Services but will seek reimbursement from the federal government.
The office will function separately from the district's homeless services, which Bowser noted are not equipped to handle the influx of migrants.
According to the Thursday announcement, the framework will help to attend to migrants' basic needs and "facilitate onward travel" to final destinations. The office will provide migrants with meals, temporary accommodations, urgent medical attention, transportation, connection to resettlement services, translation services, and "other needs as are determined."