PHOENIX — Following the lead of Texas, Arizona is busing migrants from the border to Washington, D.C.
C.J. Karamargin, press aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, said the first bus arrived Wednesday at the nation’s capitol after leaving Yuma on Monday. He said 20 people, all who volunteered, were on the bus.
Karamargin said the migrants were from as far away as Uzbekistan. None were from Mexico.
He did not know how much the program will cost, saying it will depend on how many more migrants seek to take advantage of future transportation.
But whatever the bill, Karamargin said it is worth it.
“It pales in comparison to the stress on local resources,” he said. And Karamargin said that the governor intends to send the final bill to Washington.
The move comes as fellow Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state has sent at least 10 busloads of migrants to Washington. But Karamargin said his boss made the decision because of the impact migrants already are having in Arizona.
“They are taxing the resources, stretching the resources of nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations,” he said. “And this situation will only get worse if Title 42 is lifted.”
That refers to plans by the Biden administration to end the restrictions on migrants imposed during the COVID outbreak by President Trump. That is set to occur at the end of the month.
“Already, we are seeing the ability to care for these folks stretched beyond their capacity to handle it,” Karamargin said.
The actual arrangements, while paid for by the state, are being arranged by AMI Healthcare. It will provide transportation, staffing, meals to Washington, which is nearer to the ultimate destination where the folks who volunteered want to be,” he said.
And Karamargin stressed no one is being forced to do anything and that they are free to get off the bus at any point on the route.
In Washington, he said, they will be met by other nongovernmental organizations “that can help them get to their ultimate destinations.”
Karamargin said most of those destinations are in the northeast, though some on that first bus want to wind up as far away as Virginia and Florida.
There’s a political element to the decision.
“This is a situation created by the federal government’s inability or unwillingness to deal with what’s going on at the border,” said Karamargin, whose boss has made repeated attacks on the Biden administration, including its border policies.
Karamargin said there are plans for future buses, at least out of Yuma. He said there are no immediate plans to have similar trips originating from Cochise or Santa Cruz counties.
“Many of the asylum seekers are coming in through Yuma,” he said.
It was Abbott who set the stage for the what Ducey is now doing.
“By busing migrants to Washington, D.C., the Biden administration will be able to more immediately meet the needs of the people they are allowing to cross our border,” the Texas governor said in explaining the program. “Texas should not have to bear the burden of the Biden administration’s failure to secure our border.”
Ducey’s announcement of the busing of migrants came as he sent a letter to four social media companies asking them to do as better job of monitoring their platforms to ensure they are not being used to recruit people to help with smuggling.
“Cartels (are) preying on those seeking refuge for a better life, and facilitating the flow of drugs into American communities,” the governor wrote.
“These criminals are using your companies’ social media platforms to make it happen.”