WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A bus carrying migrants from Texas arrived in Washington, D.C. this morning and a second bus is on the way, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.
The governor said the bus was filled with migrants from the countries of Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. It came from Del Rio, Texas, according to reports. There are men, women and children seeking asylum in the U.S.
Some of the migrants told WUSA, our sister station in D.C., that they had plenty of food and water during the more than 30-hour trip. Some already had secondary stops planned out.
A second bus arrived in D.C. at about 3:30 a.m. Thursday.
Last Wednesday, Abbott unveiled an "unprecedented" plan to bus the migrants to the nation's capital, but later admitted the program would be voluntary. The announcement was met with a storm of criticism.
"THIS. IS. A. CRUEL. POLITICAL. STUNT," Rep. Sylvia Garcia tweeted after the bus dropped the migrants in front of the Fox News Channel's D.C. studio.
The move came in response to President Biden's decision to end a pandemic-era emergency health order known as Title 42 that allowed immigration authorities to turn away migrants at the border, even those seeking asylum.
"As the federal government continues to turn a blind eye to the border crisis, the State of Texas will remain steadfast in our efforts to fill in the gaps and keep Texans safe," said Governor Abbott. "By busing migrants to Washington, D.C., the Biden Administration will be able to more immediately meet the needs of the people they are allowing to cross our border. Texas should not have to bear the burden of the Biden Administration’s failure to secure our border."
Catholic Charities and other agencies were ready to assist the migrants in Washington.
“If you come here and you happen to be an immigrant, or you happen to be a poor person or happen to be someone who needs food, we try to say, 'Yes,'” Msgr. John Enzler with Catholic Charities D.C. told WUSA.
'It's a gimmick'
Last Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the move as a political stunt leading up to the November election where he will face Democrat Beto O'Rourke.
“I’m not aware of what authority the governor would be doing that under. I think it’s pretty clear this is a publicity stunt,” Psaki said when asked about the threat during a press briefing.
“His own office admits that a migrant would need to voluntarily be transported, and he can’t compel them to because, again, enforcement of our country’s immigration laws lies with the federal government, not a state,” Psaki added.
Abbott's announcement also led to immediate criticism from both his left and his right.
Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia echoed the White House response that Abbott is looking for publicity.
"Well, it's just ridiculous," Garcia said last week. "He is just more worried about mobilizing his base than he is worried about taking care of people in Texas."
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee also criticized the plan.
"The mockery of the seriousness of people who are fleeing a crisis is shameful," Lee said.
Immigration rights groups said his rhetoric was still dangerous.
"Any forcible busing of migrants across the country would be outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional," Kate Huddleston, a staff attorney at ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. "Given that Abbott cannot dictate where people are sent, he has already backpedaled on this heinous plan, announcing that it will be only voluntary."
Even some conservatives called it out as empty posturing.
RAW VIDEO: First bus of Texas migrants arrives in D.C.
His Democratic opponent for governor, Beto O'Rourke, said the announcement was just another example of Abbott placing bluster over substance.
"If Abbott focused on solutions instead of stunts, then Texas could have made some real progress on the issue over the last seven years," he said in a statement.
Preparing for influx of migrants
Abbott's busing program was only one in a series of actions he announced Wednesday to ramp up the state's response as the Biden administration moves to end Title 42. It was put in place during former President Trump’s administration, allowing immigration authorities to manage the sometimes overwhelming number of migrants trying to enter the country.
Without it, federal officials say, they expect to draw thousands more migrants to the southwestern border every day, in addition to the already large numbers of people trying to enter from Latin America and other places across the globe.
Abbott said federal officials are planning for more than 18,000 migrant crossings per day on the southern border, which would amount to half a million crossings a month.
The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.