Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that his administration has started transporting migrants in his state to Philadelphia, the latest Democrat-led city affected by his plan to use desperate migrant families as political props.
In a statement, the Republican governor announced that Pennsylvania’s largest city will now be a destination for asylum-seekers bused out of Texas — usually without proper communication about what they can expect — to Democrat-led jurisdictions that consider themselves sanctuaries for migrants. Abbott has been carrying out this plan for months, targeting New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“Since April, Texas’ busing strategy has successfully provided much-needed relief to our border communities overwhelmed by the historic influx of migrants caused by President Biden’s reckless open border policies,” Abbott said in the statement, referring to President Joe Biden’s refusal to maintain some Trump-era immigration restrictions.
“Until the Biden Administration does its job and provides Texans and the American people with sustainable border security, Texas will continue doing more than any other state in the nation’s history to defend against an invasion along the border, including adding more sanctuary cities like Philadelphia as drop-off locations for our busing strategy,” the statement read.
For years, Republicans have labeled migrant border crossings “invasions” to stoke fear about immigrants who are often Black or brown seeking safety and opportunity in the U.S. that they did not have in their own countries. Critics say the term dehumanizes migrants and makes them a target of violence — which happened in 2019 when a man with extremely racist and anti-immigrant views killed nearly two dozen people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Some immigration restrictions under former President Donald Trump included Title 42 and “Remain in Mexico.” Title 42 is a public health order that immigration authorities have used during the pandemic to reject migrants based on COVID-19 concerns. The Remain in Mexico policy required some migrants to await decisions on their U.S. asylum applications in Mexico. Biden ended the Remain in Mexico policy, and a federal judge blocked Title 42 on Tuesday.
“We have a process in place to manage migrants at the border,” Biden said in September. “We’re working to make sure it’s safe and orderly and humane. Republican officials should not interfere with that process.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney confirmed that 30 asylum-seekers will be arriving in the city on Wednesday from Texas, saying that the city “will greet our newly arrived neighbors with dignity and respect.”
“It is disgusting that Gov. Abbott’s administration continues to implement their purposefully cruel policy using immigrant families as political pawns,” Kenney tweeted.
The mayor said that the city has launched the Philadelphia Welcoming Fund to allow residents to contribute to local efforts to receive immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers coming to Philadelphia. The funds will be provided to local nonprofits that are supporting arriving immigrant communities.
Tiffany Burrow of the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition told The Texas Tribune that the group has already arranged for nonprofits in Philadelphia to receive the migrants when they arrive and guide them toward local resources.
Abbott began his busing plan as a way to send a political message to Biden in response to growing numbers of border crossings. There were nearly 2.4 million migrant arrests at the U.S. southwestern border this fiscal year, according to U.S. Border Patrol. Migrant arrests for the year were 37% higher than last year, and more than double the number in 2019.
An increasing number of migrants are coming from Venezuela to flee political violence and economic turbulence there. In October, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new pathway for migrants fleeing Venezuela to legally resettle in the U.S. Those who cross the border illegally, however, will be returned to Mexico and barred from entering the U.S. legally.