Aid groups say more than 100 migrants and refugees seeking asylum in the US have been deported from Texas in what critics have called a political stunt.
Busloads of migrants and refugees were sent from Texas to Washington, D.C., and were dropped off near the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris over the Christmas weekend, immigrant advocacy groups said.
The move could be part of an ongoing political effort by Republicans like Texas Governor Greg Abbott to send a political message about immigration to the Democratic administration of United States President Joe Biden.
About 110 to 130 migrants and refugees seeking asylum in the U.S., many of them families with children, were put on buses by Texas officials, said Tatiana Laborde, CEO of SAMU First Response, an aid agency working with the city of Washington. , DC and left at freezing temperature.
Laborde said aid groups were notified of their trip and were waiting for them to arrive late Saturday to distribute blankets and take them to a church in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Some migrants and refugees wore T-shirts despite temperatures hovering around -9 degrees Celsius (15 degrees Fahrenheit).
Abbott aides could not comment on whether the state coordinated their transportation. His office said last week that Texas has bused more than 15,000 people to Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Philadelphia since April.
Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a fellow Republican, have sharply criticized Biden for his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people try to cross every day, many of them seeking asylum.
Officials on both sides of the border are appealing for urgent help to set up shelters and services for migrants and refugees, some of whom are sleeping on the streets.
Republicans argue that Biden and Harris, the administration’s nominees for the main causes of migration, have eased restrictions that have encouraged many people to leave their countries of origin.
Biden scrapped some policies but left in place others implemented by former President Donald Trump, whose administration also fought spikes in border crossings and at one point separated immigrant families and children as part of a deterrence initiative.
White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan called the derailment of the buses a “cruel, dangerous and shameful stunt.”
Laborde said nine busloads of migrants and refugees were dropped off in Washington last week.
“Recently, we’ve seen an increase in people from Ecuador and Colombia,” Laborde said. In the past, many Venezuelans arrived by bus, she added.
Laborde added that many recent arrivals are now trying to go to New York or New Jersey, where they have relatives or other community support.