The first group of migrants bused from Texas to Los Angeles has arrived in California, the latest move by Republicans opposed to Democratic President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. The buses, arranged by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, dropped off 40 people at LA’s Union Station on Wednesday. “Texas’ small border towns remain overwhelmed and overrun by the thousands of people illegally crossing into Texas because the President refused to secure our southern border,” Abbott said in a statement. The governor added that his office would continue transporting migrants to major cities like Los Angeles until Biden takes action on the border.
The city of Los Angeles, which has declared itself a sanctuary city, learned of the incoming refugees’ trip while it was still en route and was prepared to welcome them when they got off the buses, Mayor Karen Bass, a Democrat, said. The city will continue to collaborate with nonprofit groups and city departments to provide support for migrants, she said.
One of the nonprofits there to greet the migrants, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said that eight children had traveled aboard the two buses. They ranged in age from two to nine, according to Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesperson for the organization. The families were from Latin America and Haiti. “People told me they were on the bus for 23 hours without food and water – that’s how horrible the trip was,” Cabrera said.
Activists and politicians criticized the governor’s plan to send migrants from border communities to major cities. They said it was not the best way to treat the vulnerable and that the bus rides were a form of harassment. Activists also accused the state of trying to undermine federal asylum policies. The migrant transfer program began last spring when Abbott asked the Texas Division of Emergency Management to charter buses for Rio Grande Valley people seeking protection under an Obama-era policy known as Title 42. Biden ended Title 42 in September.
While the migrants have arrived in Los Angeles, many more have traveled to other parts of the country. The White House has criticized the effort and accused California Gov. Gavin Newsom of trying to derail it with his comments about a possible kidnapping investigation into the two flights that brought 36 immigrants from Florida to Sacramento this month. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas has recommended criminal charges be filed once an investigation is completed. However, the state Attorney General’s Office has not decided whether to pursue them.
The migrant transfer is the latest skirmish between red states’ conservative governors and Newsom, who has taken the lead in immigration policy and rhetoric since becoming governor of California in January. In November, he urged Congress to pass legislation allowing the state to prosecute people who smuggle or illegally cross into the country. The move came days after the Trump administration threatened to sue California over sanctuary laws.