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Texas, Arizona and immigrants: Let Biden take care of it

Status: 08/27/2022 6:50 pm

The South American states of Texas and Arizona are loading migrants on buses bound for Washington. There, they argue, the US government should take care of it. Some immigrants are fine.

Lena Stadler, ART Studio Washington

About 80 immigrants sit at tables and benches in the basement of a Methodist church in Washington’s Capitol Hill district. The smell of unwashed clothes and large bowls of chicken and rice on a table, the air is stuffy.

A platform at the head of the room holds boxes of clothes, diapers and toiletries, and volunteers distribute the items. In the morning people were brought here in two buses from Texas.

Without churches and volunteers, they would languish without help in Washington: newly arrived immigrants from Central and South America.

Image: REUTERS

Hope for a better future

Alexander Rafael Colmenares among them. He left his native Colombia and tells how armed gangs are causing huge problems in his country – which is why he “gave everything” to “find a better future for me and my family”.

The 30-year-old stares around the room with tired brown eyes. He has nothing but the clothes he wears. His cell phone was taken away by border officials.

Colmenares spent a month and a half on the road, crossing six countries. Most of the time he walked, only sometimes he took the bus. When he arrived in Texas, he was given a free seat on a bus to Washington. He was happy to accept it – it calmed him down to get out of the border on the bus, he says, and now everything is “much better”.

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Free tickets – with calculations

In fact, Colmenarez ended up in Washington because two men did not want refugees in their states: the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona, Greg Abbott and Ducey. Since the spring they have been offering free tickets to Washington for immigrants at the Mexican border, and since early August – at least for Texan Abbott – to New York.

Through the bus action they demonstrated against the immigration policy of the democratic US government. Greg Abbott said on US television that the Biden administration could “immediately address the needs of the people we have allowed to cross our border” in the US capital.

Confidence drives more displacement

In fact, immigration policy hasn’t changed much since Democrats took office in 2021. But the mere announcement of relief has prompted thousands of people from South and Central America to move to the United States. Already, more migrants have crossed the southern border than in the entire last US fiscal year.

In Washington alone, 7,000 migrants have arrived on buses from the border since April. The capital’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, has twice asked the U.S. government in recent weeks for help with the National Guard to avert a “humanitarian crisis,” she wrote in a request for assistance. It was rejected.

Return trip to Texas or Arizona not desired: Immigrants after arriving in Washington DC

Image: REUTERS

Nothing works without volunteers

So all that’s left are the volunteers – a huge network that cares for the people who come in the meantime. That’s mostly without government support, says Pastor Stephanie Vedder, who allowed refugees to arrive that day. State – and better coordinated – support can be very helpful. Although the “Mutual Aid” network spent more than $300,000, it was all donations. There are still many unmet needs.

Nine out of ten refugees continue to travel without staying in Washington. Colmenares also received a bus ticket from the volunteer network to visit his brother in Tennessee. There he hopes to be able to work at some point, find peace – and stay.