So far, around 9,000 migrants have arrived in the district since Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) launched his bus program in April to highlight what he called lax border policies of the Biden administration amid record border crossings this year – a move replicated by Arizona Gov Doug Ducey (R) in May.
The influx of mostly Latino migrants – including young children – arriving at Union Station several times a week with little or no resources left several aid groups scrambling to help them.
One agency – SAMU First Response – was able to accept 50 people at a time into its temporary shelter in Montgomery County. The organization, which also helps migrants get to their next destination if they intend to leave, has sought larger shelter near Union Station.
So far, that effort has been thwarted by high real estate prices in that part of town, Capitol Hill, said Tatiana Laborde, executive director of SAMU First Response.
While some migrants sleep on the streets, other groups, mostly volunteers, have paid for their hotel room and food themselves while contributing to transportation costs.
Racine announced his grant program last month, after the Pentagon rejected a request from DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to deploy 150 National Guard troops to help with what the two officials called a crisis. growing humanitarian. Bowser appealed this decision and was again denied.
“DC is at its best when we step up for our neighbors, which means providing food, shelter and other necessities to people in need,” Racine said in a statement Thursday, calling the steps taken by Abbott and Ducey of “a purely political stunt”. which “has left vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers without basic resources and nowhere to go”.
“We must use all the tools at our disposal to answer the call for additional resources and provide assistance to these vulnerable people,” the statement said.
Six aid groups have received grants through the Racine Office Litigation Support Fund, with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $32,350 to be spent by the end of September, at the end of the current fiscal year.
Racine’s office said Thursday it will assess whether to renew the grant program in the next fiscal year after reviewing how the current pool of money is being spent.
The limited time means most of the assistance will be temporary and will go towards housing, food and transportation assistance to areas outside of the Washington area.
Goods for Good, a volunteer-based nonprofit group in the district, received $16,550 to provide clothing for migrants, many of whom disembark buses with little more than they wear.
Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of DC got $32,280 to conduct charlas, or interviews, with migrants about their rights as potential asylum seekers and other basic information, such as way to take a local bus or train.
Abel Nuñez, director of the aid group CARECEN, which qualified for a $31,900 grant to conduct admissions interviews with migrants and help with transportation costs, said more resources were needed to cover longer term assistance.
Although most migrants have chosen to leave, a growing number – nearly 15% – have chosen to stay in the region, according to Nuñez and other immigrant advocates. Until they are economically stable, these people will need help with more permanent housing, enrolling their children in school and obtaining legal services related to their asylum claims, Nuñez said.
“That’s why we’re pushing the city to really come up with resources,” he said.
Bowser has so far avoided committing city funds to the migrant relief effort, encouraging nonprofits to apply for federal assistance.
Paula Fitzgerald, executive director of Ayuda – which received $32,350 from Racine’s office to, mainly, provide hygiene kits, clothing and cellphones – said longer-term aid would be easier to be provided through a larger respite center near Union Station.
Such a site could also serve as a centralized hub for multiple aid groups, she said.
“Because there’s not one organization running it, it’s not as smooth or efficient as it could be,” Fitzgerald said.