WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense denied DC Mayor Murial Bowser’s request for the National Guard to assist in the influx of migrants sent by charter buses from Texas, a day after Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the mayor at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Abbott opened CPAC in Dallas on Thursday and focused his remarks heavily on problems at the US-Mexico border. He said the state has bused over 6,500 migrants from the border to Washington.
“They cannot handle that one single challenge. We deal with that number every single day,” Abbott said about Washington leaders. “I have one thing to say to you and to them: There are more buses on the way as we gather at this convention.”
The Republican governor followed that up with an announcement Friday that the first bus of migrants sent to New York City had arrived, and that migrants picked up in Texas will now be sent to both cities. New York has a right to housing law, meaning the city is required to provide emergency shelter for any unhoused person.
“Because of President Biden’s continued refusal to acknowledge the crisis caused by his open border policies, the State of Texas has had to take unprecedented action to keep our communities safe,” Abbott said in a statement.
The tactic of sending migrants to Washington began in April, but the effort went relatively unnoticed initially.
At the time, Abbott called the move a “fun” way to get President Joe Biden’s attention, while volunteers and migrants called it “inhumane” and purely political.
Bowser called for the National Guard’s assistance on July 28, calling the influx of migrants a “growing humanitarian crisis.”
She requested an open-ended deployment of 150 National Guard members per day, and a “suitable federal location” for housing and processing, suggesting the DC Armory could serve that purpose.
In the letter requesting aid Bowser criticized Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and said the pair had “decided to use desperate people to score political points.”
As Washington does not have statehood, Bowser lacks the authority to order National Guard deployment herself.
The letter from the Department of Defense said the city has enough funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has gone to DC nonprofits to provide migrants with shelter and other services.
In a press conference shortly after the letter’s release, Bowser said the DOD seemed concerned about the open-ended nature of the request and that she would be looking for ways to specify her call for assistance. She said she plans to work with the DOD so they fully understand the operational needs.
She also spoke to the politicization of the issue, and said she wanted to ensure no political considerations were part of the decision. She said there’s nothing political in nature about how DC leaders operate the homeless services system.
“Having had the experience where the use of the DC National Guard was politicized, that puts the district in unsafe territory,” Bowser said. “I have done, regardless of Republicans in Texas or Democrats on Pennsylvania Avenue, what I need to do to run the city.”