For the third time in less than two weeks, a group of Latino asylum seekers were abruptly sent to California on Wednesday, the latest episode of a months-long political protest by the Republican governors of Florida and Texas against Democratic immigration policies.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement that his administration had orchestrated the transfer, in which at least 42 migrants, including children and infants, were bussed from Texas to Los Angeles. It was the first time either of the two Republican governors had sent migrants to the city.
Authorities in California and Los Angeles confirmed the bus arrived around 4:00 PM at Union Station from McAllen, Texas, and the migrants, who had been traveling for two days, were offered shelter and legal assistance.
Mr. Abbott said his state sent them across state lines because « small Texas border towns remain overrun » and President Biden « refuses to secure the border. » Challenging a California law and a new Los Angeles ordinance that limit the use of local resources in federal immigration enforcement, Mr. Abbott added that Los Angeles “is a big city where migrants seek to go, in especially now that its city leaders have approved its status as a self-proclaimed sanctuary city.
State officials said Los Angeles nonprofits had been notified in advance of the move, unlike what happened before two planeloads of migrants arrived in Sacramento earlier this month with the backing of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis .
On Wednesday, city, county and state aid was coordinated from the Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center and a drop-in center was set up in Chinatown near Union Station. The city also offered short-term shelter and the children were given Play-Doh, Monopoly, Barbie dolls and other toys.
“This didn’t catch us off guard,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. said on Twitter. « Los Angeles is not a city motivated by hate or fear and we will absolutely not be influenced or moved by petty politicians who play with human lives. »
It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday whether the migrants had agreed to travel to California or what they had been told about the westward journey. After a Florida-funded migrant trip this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested Mr. DeSantis could face kidnapping charges, accusing Florida contractors of forcing people onto planes under false pretenses. Mr. Newsom’s office issued a statement accusing Texas of « demonizing asylum seekers, » but the Democratic governor did not criticize Mr. Abbott as he did Mr. DeSantis.
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, an immigrant rights organization, said the migrants were largely Central American. He said eight children, who appeared to be between the ages of 2 and 9, were part of the group, all accompanied by adults.
Some of the migrants had been separated from other family members at the border, said Lindsay Toczylowski of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. CHIRLA executive director Angelica Salas said at least one asylum seeker had an upcoming immigration court date away from California in another state.
He said members of his group had heard yesterday that a bus might arrive on Wednesday but said they were cautious because they have had multiple false alarms in the past. Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Abbott have been busing and flying migrants to Democratic-led places like New York, Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard for months with little or no notice in an effort to underscore Republican calls for tougher immigration enforcement .
It is not unusual for asylum seekers to be voluntarily transferred interstate due to court dates or proximity to sponsors, but these types of transfers are usually made with official advance notice and are highly coordinated by state governments and non-governmental organizations. profit.
In heavily Democratic Los Angeles, the move was widely denounced. Kevin de León, a city councilman who, as legislative leader, wrote the 2017 sanctuary state law cited by both Florida and Texas governors, on Wednesday called the move « abhorrent » and accused Mr. Abbott of « callously dealing with vulnerable human beings around for cheap political points.
Another city council member, Eunisses Hernandez, whose district includes the Chinatown church where the migrants were welcomed, said Mr Abbott « wasn’t strong enough to deal with the moment in his state. »
« But that’s okay, » he added, « because all these people here in Los Angeles and California are more than capable of accommodating these people. »