WASHINGTON (AP) — The District of Columbia has requested National Guard assistance to help stem a “growing humanitarian crisis” prompted by thousands of migrants that have been sent to Washington by a pair of southern states.
Mayor Muriel Bowser formally asked the White House last week for an open-ended deployment of 150 National Guard members per day as well as “suitable federal location” for a mass housing and processing center, mentioning the D.C. Armory as a logical candidate. She met on July 21 with Liz Sherwood-Randall, assistant to the president for homeland security, and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The crisis began in spring when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., in response to President Joe Biden's decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers.
Since then the city estimates that nearly 200 buses have arrived, delivering more than 4,000 migrants to Union Station, often with no resources and no clue what to do next.
A coalition of local charitable groups has been working to feed and shelter the migrants, aided by a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But organizers have been warning that both their resources and personnel were nearing exhaustion.
“This reliance on NGOs is not working and is unsustainable — they are overwhelmed and underfunded,” Bowser said in her letter. She has repeatedly stated that the influx was stressing her government's ability to care for its own homeless residents and required intervention from Biden's government.
“We know we have a federal issue that demands a federal response,” Bowser said at a July 18 press conference.
In her letter, Bowser harshly criticizes Abbott and Ducey, accusing them of “cruel political gamesmanship” and saying the pair had “decided to use desperate people to score political points.”
Bowser does not have 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 less than a state.
Her limited authority played a role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol building by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that the U.S. Capitol Police were overmatched by the crowds, Bowser couldn’t immediately deploy the district guard. Instead, crucial time was lost while the request was considered inside the Pentagon, and protesters rampaged through the building.