The ploy to use asylum seekers as political pawns is working — and lives are being ruined in the process.
In early April, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to drive charter buses of undocumented immigrants who’d crossed into his state the more than 1,000 miles to Washington, D.C. as part of, he claimed, an effort “to help local officials whose communities are overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants being dropped off by the Biden Administration.”
To date, thousands of migrants have volunteered to join Abbott’s bus caravans north — paid for by the state of Texas — arriving in the nation’s capital with no support systems of their own, overwhelming the city’s already strained social services network. As the New York Times reported on Thursday, Abbott’s ploy to leverage genuine human desperation into petty political posturing seems to be working as intended.
“The migrant crisis facing our city and our country through cruel political gamesmanship from the governors of Texas and Arizona must be dealt with at a federal level,” DC Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a letter to the Biden Administration in late July, asking for the National Guard to aid the city in managing the influx of migrants.
“I have great empathy for the very difficult situation people boarding buses to unknown locations are facing,” Bowser explained, adding “I likewise am very concerned that the social safety net I am responsible for ensuring for DC residents is maintained.”
But as the Times noted, Bowser’s request for federalized military aid has not necessarily been well received by the networks of advocacy groups and nonprofits desperately working to address the influx of migrants, many of whom have ended up unhoused.
“The last thing we want is a militarized response to a humanitarian crisis,” Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network activist Andrea Scherff told the paper.
Here, then, is the dynamic at play: Southern Republican governors are capitalizing on migrant desperation (volunteers in Texas are given a choice between paying for a bus in-state, or accepting the taxpayer-funded ride to the East Coast) to not only offload their civic responsibilities to care for people seeking asylum, but are also counting on creating so much strain on the northern communities’ advocacy networks that it sways both broad political and public opinion toward their own anti-immigrant fear mongering. The tragedy, of course, is that all this is being done at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet: asylum seekers with zero resources and recourse, who now find themselves forced into serving as pawns in a broader conservative effort to further marginalize and ignore their very real, very human needs. And so far, it seems to be working.
As one migrant who accepted a bus trip to DC told the Times, “In Texas, they told us that here, we would get help with housing, work and everything else we needed. It was all a lie.”