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Pentagon Rejects DC’s Call For National Guard Help Amid Migrant Influx

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon rejected a request from the District of Columbia in search of National Guard assistance in what the mayor has called a “growing humanitarian crisis” prompted by 1000’s of migrants being bused to town from two southern states.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to offer Guard personnel and the usage of the D.C. Armory to help with the reception of migrants into town, in keeping with U.S. defense officials. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the district may send an amended, “more specific” request, adding that she believes that is the primary time a D.C. request for National Guard has been denied.

One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to debate a call not yet made public, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s food and shelter program has provided funding for the issue, and has indicated those funds are sufficient at this point.

Bowser, the district’s Democratic mayor, formally asked the White House last month for an open-ended deployment of 150 National Guard members per day in addition to a “suitable federal location” for a mass housing and processing center, mentioning the D.C. Armory as a logical candidate.

Through the spring, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, each Republicans, 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 by denying them a probability to hunt asylum. The rule stays in effect under court order.

On Friday, Abbott said the primary group of migrants from his state had now been bused to Recent York as well.

As of mid-July, about 5,200 migrants had been bused from Texas to D.C. since April. As of Aug. 3, greater than 1,300 had been sent from Arizona since May. The governors call the practice a voluntary free ride ― paid for by state taxpayers — that gets migrants closer to family or support networks.

But Bowser last month dismissed that characterization, saying that the asylum-seekers are being “tricked,” as many don’t get close enough to their final destinations and a few are ditched at Union Station near the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Often they arrive with no resources and no clue what to do next.

Víctor Rodríguez, 27, and his wife Ordalis Rodríguez, 26 — migrants originally from Venezuela who were transported on a bus from Texas — are seen with their children Jeremías, 5, and Luciana, 1, outside of Union Station in Washington, D.C., on April 13.

Craig Hudson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

On Friday, Bowser told reporters that the Pentagon appears to be concerned “concerning the open-ended nature of our request” and that a more specific one would help.

“We wish to proceed to work with the Department of Defense in order that they understand our operational needs and to guarantee that political considerations are usually not an element of their decision,” Bowser said, adding that she believes the crisis will only worsen. “We want the National Guard. If we were a state, I’d have already done it.”

A coalition of local charitable groups has been working to feed and shelter the migrants, aided by a $1 million grant from FEMA. But organizers have been warning that each their resources and personnel were nearing exhaustion.

“This reliance on NGOs shouldn’t be working and is unsustainable — they’re overwhelmed and underfunded,” Bowser said in her letter. She has repeatedly stated that the influx is stressing her government’s ability to look after its own homeless residents and now requires a federal response.

Bowser sharply criticized Abbott and Ducey, accusing them of “cruel political gamesmanship” and saying the pair had “decided to make use of desperate people to attain political points.”

Explaining his decision so as to add Recent York City as a destination, Abbott said that Biden’s “refusal to acknowledge the crisis brought on by his open border policies” forced Texas to “take unprecedented motion to maintain our communities protected.”

He said the migrants are being dropped off on the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

“Along with Washington, D.C., Recent York City is the best destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has boasted about inside the sanctuary city,” Abbott said.

In response, Fabien Levy, spokesman for Adams, tweeted that Abbott’s “continued use of human beings as political pawns is disgusting. NYC will proceed to welcome asylum seekers w/ open arms, as we’ve got at all times done, but we still need support from DC.”

Migrants from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Del Rio, Texas, disembark within view of the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 2. Since April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has ordered over 150 buses to carry approximately 4,500 migrants from Texas.Migrants from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Del Rio, Texas, disembark inside view of the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 2. Since April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has ordered over 150 buses to hold roughly 4,500 migrants from Texas.

STEFANI REYNOLDS via Getty Images

As mayor of D.C., Bowser doesn’t have the authority to personally order a National Guard deployment, a problem that has develop into emotionally charged in recent times as an emblem of the district’s entrenched status as lower than a state.

Her limited authority played a job within the Jan. 6, 2021, revolt on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. When it became clear that Capitol Police were overmatched by the crowds, Bowser couldn’t immediately deploy the district guard. As a substitute, crucial time was lost while the request was considered contained in the Pentagon, and protesters rampaged through the constructing.

Associated Press author Ashraf Khalil in Washington, Karen Matthews in Recent York City and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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