Pentagon denies DC request for National Guard migrant help

  • FILE - Migrants hold Red Cross blankets after arriving at Union Station near the U.S. Capitol from Texas on buses, April 27, 2022, in Washington. The Pentagon has rejected a request from the District of Columbia seeking National Guard assistance for the thousands of migrants being bused to the city from two southern states. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon rejected a request from the District of Columbia seeking National Guard assistance in what the mayor has called a “growing humanitarian crisis” prompted by thousands of migrants being bused to the city from two southern states.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to provide Guard personnel and the use of the D.C. Armory to assist with the reception of migrants into the city, according to U.S. defense officials. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the district may send an amended, “more specific” request, adding that she believes this is the first time a D.C. request for National Guard has been denied.

One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet made public, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s food and shelter program has provided funding for the problem, and has indicated those funds are sufficient at this point. Bowser, the district’s Democratic mayor, formally asked the White House last month for an open-ended deployment of 150 National Guard members per day as well as a “suitable federal location” for a mass housing and processing center, mentioning the D.C. Armory as a logical candidate.

During the spring, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans, announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers by denying them a chance to seek asylum. The rule remains in effect under court order.

On Friday, Abbott said the first group of migrants from his state had now been bused to New York as well. As of mid-July, about 5,200 migrants had been bused from Texas to D.C. since April. As of Aug. 3, more than 1,300 had been sent from Arizona since May. The governors call the practice a voluntary free ride – paid for by state taxpayers — that gets migrants closer to family or support networks.

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