(CNN) — Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public health emergency on Thursday in response to the thousands of migrants arriving in the nation’s capital by bus from Arizona and Texas.
Bowser announced in a news conference a new government office tasked with the local response to arriving migrants that will also support new arrivals who are seeking asylum.
“We’re putting in place a framework that would allow us to have a coordinated response with our partners,” Bowser, a Democrat, said. “This will include a program to meet all buses, and given that most people will move on, our primary focus is to make sure we have a humane, efficient, welcome process that will allow people to move on to their final destination.”
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott started busing migrants to the nation’s capital in April to protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, another Republican, have so far sent hundreds of buses to DC, and neither have expressed any intention of stopping.
As of Thursday, the Texas governor’s office had sent more than 7,900 migrants on over 190 buses to the District, more than 2,200 migrants on over 40 buses to New York City, and more than 300 migrants on over five buses to Chicago.
A state government spreadsheet obtained by CNN through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that, as of August 9, Texas has paid $12,707,720.92 to Wynne Transportation, the charter service that is taking migrants to New York and DC.
Arizona, which is only sending buses to DC, has sent 46 buses carrying 1,677 migrants.
The District’s new Office of Migrant Services will be housed within the Department of Human Services, Bowser said Thursday, and will provide basic needs to arriving migrants, including meals, transportation, urgent medical care, and transportation to connect people to resettlement services.
DC will allocate $10 million to establish and support the new office, and the mayor said she will seek reimbursement for part of that funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The time-limited emergency declaration offers Bowser and her administration more power and flexibility, meaning officials will be able to mobilize people and resources faster and seek federal financial assistance, she said Thursday. Bowser added she will send emergency legislation to the DC Council to codify the new office.
The DC Mayor criticized Abbott and Ducey for their roles in creating the “growing humanitarian crisis,” but also took aim at the federal response, which she said “has been lacking in some respects.”
Last month, the Department of Defense denied for the second time Bowser’s request to activate DC’s National Guard.
The Pentagon, according to a copy of the rejection letter reviewed by CNN, said it “would not be appropriate” to use the DC National Guard and that the Defense Department “cannot fulfill your request.”
Bowser reacted to the rejection in a statement on Twitter at the time, saying, “We are going to move forward with our planning to ensure that when people are coming through DC on their way to their final destination that we have a humane setting for them.”
She echoed that message on Thursday, vowing that the District will “continue to work with partners to advance what we need and ensure our systems in DC are not broken by a crisis that is certainly not of our making.”
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