Texas governor Greg Abbott announced on Wednesday evening that his state had dropped off a busload of migrants in Los Angeles, the latest move by a rightwing governor to send people seeking help to a region run by Democrats.
Abbott claimed in a tweet that “small Texas border towns remain overrun & overwhelmed because Biden refuses to secure the border”, adding: “LA is a city migrants seek to go to, particularly now its leaders approved its self-declared sanctuary status.”
LA’s mayor, Karen Bass, said in a statement that more than 40 people were sent from Texas, adding: “It is abhorrent that an American elected official is using human beings as pawns in his cheap political games.”
Spokespeople for Abbott, whose tweet said it was “the 1st bus” headed to LA, did not respond to inquiries on Wednesday night. The group arrived at LA’s Union Station, a major transit hub, CBS Los Angeles reported, adding that a human rights organization took them to a nearby church. It wasn’t immediately clear where the migrants came from.
Bass said that after she took office last year, she directed city agencies to begin planning for a possible scenario in which LA “was on the receiving end of a despicable stunt that Republican Governors have grown so fond of”.
“This did not catch us off guard, nor will it intimidate us. Now, it’s time to execute our plan. Our emergency management, police, fire and other departments were able to find out about the incoming arrival while the bus was on its way and were already mobilized along with nonprofit partners before the bus arrived,” she said.
Abbot has faced widespread criticisms for his bussing program, which over the last year has reportedly sent tens of thousands of migrants to Washington DC, New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia, including at one point dropping them off by the residence of the vice-president, Kamala Harris. One bus he sent to Philadelphia last year had a 10-year-old girl on it who was suffering from dehydration and a high fever and needed to be hospitalized. Immigrants rights groups have decried the practice as cruel and exploitative of vulnerable people seeking shelter and protection.
Last year, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, flew roughly 50 South American migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, without communicating with local authorities. The Republican, who is running for president, has spent more than $1.5m on the flights, the Texas Tribune reported. On Monday, a Texas sheriff’s office said it had recommended criminal charges over the Martha’s Vineyard flights, saying the migrants were “lured under false pretenses”.
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, has also threatened kidnapping charges against DeSantis after he recently sent migrants to Sacramento, the state capital.
The news follows recent reports suggesting that the number of migrants crossing the southern border is at its lowest since Joe Biden took office, and that the influx of people that some predicted would occur after the end of pandemic restrictions had not materialized.
“Los Angeles is not a city motivated by hate or fear and we absolutely will not be swayed or moved by petty politicians playing with human lives,” Bass said. “For everything that we do, we will continue to lock arms and we will continue to lead. And we will always put people’s health and wellbeing over politics.”
Sam Levin in Los Angeles
Published: 2023-06-15 03:12:38