Abbott sends two buses of migrants to Kamala Harris' D.C. residence after she called border 'secure'
WASHINGTON — Gov. Greg Abbott sent two more buses of migrants to the nation’s capital on Thursday that were dropped off near the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in a move that appears to be a response to her statements earlier this week that the border is “secure.”
“We did [send them],” Abbott said to Lubbock radio station KFYO. “She’s the border czar, and we felt that if she won’t come down to see the border, if President [Joe] Biden will not come down and see the border, we will make sure they see it firsthand. … And listen, there’s more where that came from.”
The buses contained between 75 and 100 people, according to Fox News, and arrived outside of the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., where Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff reside. Over the weekend, Harris stoked conservative outrage after appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to discuss border safety.
“The border is secure, but we also have a broken immigration system, in particular over the last four years before we came in, and it needs to be fixed,” she told host Chuck Todd.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S., held a press conference near the Harris residence Thursday afternoon and claimed two of the migrants on the buses had to be hospitalized after they arrived. One was a diabetic who went into shock and another was a baby who experienced health issues, according to the group's National President Domingo Garcia.
"These are human beings, these are fellow Christians," Garcia said in front of the Apostolic Nunciature in D.C. "They are being treated like human cargo. I think it's time that President Biden and Congress and the Senate provide humanitarian relief."
Garcia said the migrants were being helped by a religious nonprofit.
The migrant busing policy, which Abbott started as a way to antagonize the White House over its border policies, appears to be catching on among other GOP governors.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chartered two planes of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, a move his office said was part of the state’s program to relocate recently arrived migrants to a “sanctuary destination,” according to media reports. Arizona has also bused migrants to Washington.
In Martha's Vineyard there was confusion on the ground about where the migrants had come from, as some of the migrants told media organizations they had started their journey in San Antonio. Abbott's office told The Texas Tribune the governor had been in contact with DeSantis about the busing strategy but was not involved in the organization of the flights.
"Though we were not involved in these initial planes to Martha’s Vineyard, we appreciate the support in responding to this national crisis and helping Texans," Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said. "Governor Abbott encourages and welcomes all his fellow governors to engage in this effort to secure the border and focus on the failing and illegal efforts of the Biden-Harris Administration to continue these reckless open border policies.”
The voluntary busing policy, part of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star initiative to address the large number of migrants arriving at the Texas-Mexico border, started with one-way rides to Washington, D.C., in April. Some of the migrants crossing the border are seeking asylum. Abbott has since expanded the program to include bus rides to other Democratic-run metros, including New York and Chicago. His office says the program has transported more than 8,000 migrants. Records show Texas has spent at least $12 million on the trips so far.
As more Republican officials follow Abbott’s playbook, Democrats in cities where the Texas governor has sent migrants are sounding the alarm on how to deal with the influx.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has been embroiled in a public feud with Abbott over the migrant busing, said in a statement Wednesday the city’s safety net for receiving the migrants “is nearing its breaking point.” Adams suggested the city needed to reform how it supports migrants upon arrival.
“In this new and unforeseen reality, where we expect thousands more to arrive every week going forward, the city’s system is nearing its breaking point,” Adams said. “As a result, the city’s prior practices, which never contemplated the bussing of thousands of people into New York City, must be reassessed.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public health emergency last week to deal with the migrants, creating a new government office in the process to coordinate their arrivals, which will cost an initial $10 million.
Leaders of those cities have complained that the busing is overwhelming their city services, particularly because Texas is not coordinating with them or giving them notice of when buses will arrive. Advocates and aid workers who support migrants along the border, meanwhile, have said that Abbott is actually providing people a useful service by offering them free and safe transportation to their final destinations.
Patrick Svitek and Matthew Choi contributed to this report.