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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon has denied a request from the District of Columbia for National Guard assistance in what the mayor called a “growing humanitarian crisis” caused by thousands of migrants bused into the city from two southern states.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has refused to provide Guard personnel and the use of the DC Armory to help receive migrants in the city, according to US defense officials. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday the district could send a “more specific” amended request, adding that she believed this was the first time a DC request for the National Guard had been denied.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet made public, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s food and shelter program had provided funding for the issue and indicated that these funds were sufficient at this stage.
Bowser, the district’s Democratic mayor, formally requested from the White House last month an indefinite deployment of 150 National Guard members a day as well as a “suitable federal location” for a mass housing and treatment center, mentioning the DC Armory as a logical candidate.
In the spring, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, both Republicans, announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., in response to the president’s decision. Joe Biden to lift an emergency pandemic health order that restricted migrants. entry numbers. On Friday, Abbott said the first group of migrants from his state were also bused to New York.
By mid-July, around 5,200 migrants had been bussed from Texas to DC since April and more than 1,100 from Arizona, which began in May. Governors call the practice a voluntary free ride — paid for by state taxpayers — that brings migrants closer to family or support networks.
But Bowser last month dismissed that characterization, saying asylum seekers are being ‘deceived’ as many don’t get close enough to their final destination and some are left abandoned at Union Station near the US Capitol and White House. . Often they arrive without resources and without knowing 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 so that they understand our operational needs and to ensure that political considerations are not part of their decision,” Bowser said, adding that she believes the ” crisis” will only get worse. “We need the National Guard. If we were a state, I would have done it already.
A coalition of local charity groups worked to feed and house the migrants, aided by a $1 million grant from FEMA. But organizers warned that their resources and staff were nearly exhausted.
“This reliance on NGOs is not working and is not sustainable – they are overstretched and underfunded,” Bowser said in his letter. She has repeatedly said the influx stresses her government’s ability to care for its own homeless residents and now requires a federal response.
Bowser sharply criticized Abbott and Ducey, accusing them of “cruel political manipulation” and saying the couple “decided to use desperate people to score political points.”
Explaining his decision to add New York as a destination, Abbott said Biden’s “refusal to acknowledge the crisis caused by his open-border policy” has forced Texas to “take unprecedented steps to ensure the safety of our communities”.
He said migrants were dropped off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
“In addition to Washington, DC, New York is the perfect destination for these migrants, who can benefit from the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has boasted about in the sanctuary city,” Abbott said.
In response, Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy tweeted that “Abbott’s continued use of human beings as political pawns is disgusting. NYC will continue to welcome asylum seekers with open arms, as we have always done, but we still need DC’s support.”
As DC’s mayor, Bowsesr lacks the authority to personally order a National Guard deployment, an issue that has become emotionally charged in recent years as a symbol of the district’s entrenched status as a lesser qu ‘a state.
His limited authority played a role in the January 6, 2021, uprising at the United States Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that the Capitol Police were overwhelmed by the crowd, Bowser was unable to immediately deploy the District Guard. Instead, crucial time was lost while the request was considered inside the Pentagon, and protesters ransacked the building.
Associated Press writer Ashraf Khalil in Washington, DC, and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.
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