D.C. Mayor Demands More Help From Biden to Process Illegal Immigrants

COMMENTARY Immigration

D.C. Mayor Demands More Help From Biden to Process Illegal Immigrants

Jul 28, 2022 6 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Roman Jankowski

Senior Investigative Counsel, Oversight Project

Roman serves as a senior investigative counsel for the Oversight Project at The Heritage Foundation.
Pictured: Bowser, right, and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton celebrate a House committee vote in February 2020 in Washington. The Washington Post / Contributor / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Democrat politicians in the District of Columbia are calling for the Biden administration’s help in responding to an increase in illegal immigrants.

Mayor Muriel Bowser requested mobilization of the D.C. National Guard to address the “humanitarian crisis” of bused-in illegal aliens in a July 19 letter.

The first bus carrying illegal immigrants, who volunteered to go to the District, arrived there April 13.

Democrat politicians in the District of Columbia are calling for the Biden administration’s help in responding to an increase in illegal immigrants caused by the busing of thousands of migrants to the nation’s capital since April by the Republican governors of Arizona and Texas. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser requested mobilization of the D.C. National Guard to address the “humanitarian crisis” of bused-in illegal aliens in a July 19 letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Bowser apparently has yet to get an answer from Austin. 

The House-passed version of the latest National Defense Authorization Act would give the D.C. mayor the authority to call up National Guard troops in the District, similar to the authority governors have in their states.  

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced April 6 that his state would begin busing to the District illegal immigrants caught crossing the Texas-Mexico border as the Biden administration allows a surge of migrants to continue. 

The first bus carrying illegal immigrants, who volunteered to go to the District, arrived there April 13. Some news reports have estimated the number so far to be at least 4,000, but The Daily Signal has not been able to confirm that number because officials have not been responsive. 

In part, Abbott’s move was designed to force the federal government to respond to the border crisis that began when President Joe Biden halted aggressive enforcement of immigration law after taking office in January 2021. 

Abbott also acted after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, began working with nonprofit organizations to transport unlawful border crossers to other states.  

Emails obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project indicate that, from the beginning, federal officials at both the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services were tracking Abbott’s buses carrying illegal immigrants from Texas, if not those from Arizona. 

In the District, the lead agencies for processing the bused-in migrants are the city’s Department of Human Services and its Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.  

In an April 8 email, Patrick Ashley, deputy director of the D.C. Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration, told colleagues that city officials were having discussions with federal officials at the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

“The majority of persons presented are expected to be from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba,” Ashley’s email message said about the migrants bused in from Texas. “A bus must have 30 persons on it before it leaves.” 

Ashley later added:  

On a call this morning with HHS ACF [Administration for Children and Families], they indicated that it is likely that these individuals will only be in the D.C. area for a short period of time to use D.C. as a lily pad[,] as most individuals who cross the border have a final destination predetermined … where they have friends or familial support. 

Five days later, on April 13, Ashley stated in another email to D.C. government colleagues that he had an “update” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security.  

Ashley quoted a message from an unnamed FEMA official saying that officials from the D.C. government, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (also part of DHS), officials in border towns, and nonprofit groups from such towns were meeting the humanitarian needs of illegal immigrants.  

As The Daily Signal first reported last week, Ashley’s email quoted the FEMA official as saying of the first bus carrying illegal immigrants from Texas: “Some were picked up by family members and the rest will be put on a train to Miami.”  

D.C. and federal officials did not confirm or deny to The Daily Signal, despite several requests for details, that illegal aliens were rerouted to Miami or any other new destination. Nor would they say how many illegal immigrants have been sent elsewhere from the nation’s capital. 

In an email Monday to The Daily Signal, FEMA press secretary Jeremy Edwards wrote of Ashley’s April 13 email to D.C. colleagues: 

The email is reiterating what is happening on the ground at that snap-shot in time. The email does not state FEMA policy now or then. The email does not in any way suggest that FEMA was putting people on trains to Miami, which was not the case then, nor has it ever been the case. 

Bowser, a Democrat, responded to a question on the busing of illegal immigrants to her city in a July 17 appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”  

Calling it “a very significant issue,” Bowser said that “we for sure called on the federal government to work across state lines to prevent people from, really, being tricked into getting on to buses.” 

 “I worked for the White House to make sure FEMA provided a grant to a local organization that is providing services to folks,” the mayor said. 

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who is the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, announced two days later that she would introduce a bill to provide more money for FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program to help the city respond to the influx of illegal immigrants bused from Arizona and Texas.  

D.C. officials are working with FEMA officials who run that program, according to an April 26 memo from Mayorkas, head of the Department of Homeland Security under the Biden administration. 

In the memo, Mayorkas said FEMA’s food and shelter program provides support to nonprofits as well as communication and coordination assistance to relevant partners.  

The FEMA program received $280 million in Congress’ appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022, with $150 million set aside for organizations that provide humanitarian assistance to individual migrants or families encountered by DHS.  

However, it appears that Mayorkas isn’t following his own policy when it comes to Abbott’s buses carrying illegal immigrants to the District of Columbia. 

In his April 26 memo, Mayorkas says of his agency: “Once a noncitizen is released from custody by DHS, the department is no longer operationally engaged in their transportation, medical care, or shelter.”  

That apparently wasn’t the case for at least some buses carrying illegal immigrants from Texas to the nation’s capital at Abbott’s instigation, since DHS tracked those migrants even though they had been released from federal custody.  

On April 13, the same day Ashley emailed D.C. colleagues about FEMA’s update saying the illegal aliens from Texas would be sent by train to Miami, FEMA awarded $150 million in humanitarian funding to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program’s national board.  

The national board is the sole recipient of FEMA food and shelter grants. The board establishes the program’s policies, procedures, and guidelines.  

FEMA provides a chairman for the board, which also consists of representatives from the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, the Jewish Federations of North America, The Salvation Army, United Way Worldwide, and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. 

Fred Lucas and Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.  

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal