Texas and Arizona Bussing Migrants to DC and NYC

A cruel and insidious 'solution' to the border problem.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a headline like this one from POLITICO: “Pentagon denies DC request for National Guard migrant help” and didn’t think much about it. The National Capitol Region has lot of migrants from Latin America and elsewhere and it’s not really something the Pentagon is supposed to deal with.

This morning, though, I got the backstory from NPR and it’s shockingly insidious: “GOP governors sent buses of migrants to D.C. — with no plan for what came next.”

For months now, the governors of Texas and Arizona have been sending charter buses full of migrants and refugees to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, just a few blocks from the Capitol building.

When they disembark, they find neither the local nor federal government there to meet them.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he started sending the buses to D.C. because the Biden administration attempted to lift the pandemic-era emergency Title 42 order that allowed the U.S. to deny migrants entry.

According to Abbott’s office, more than 6,100 migrants have been bused to D.C. from Texas alone. They arrive six days a week, as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. — sometimes multiple buses each day.

In response, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says this is a federal issue that demands a federal answer. She and other local government officials secured a FEMA grant in June for an international nonprofit to offer emergency services to migrants.

So far, only local volunteers and nonprofit staff have greeted these buses at Union Station. Abel Nuñez is head of CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, which stepped in to help people being bussed to D.C. when this all started.

“It was really crazy because they were just leaving them on the street,” said Nuñez, who first showed up at the station on April 16 after getting a tip from the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs that a bus was on its way.

“We knew it was on its way so we were there since 5 a.m. just waiting for them along with mutual aid organizations,” he said, adding that the first bus didn’t arrive till 8 a.m. “And it was incredible how shell-shocked these people were coming out of the buses.”

The organization soon learned that the migrants had been let out of immigration detention centers at the border and spent very little time — sometimes less than a day — at a shelter or nonprofit at the border before being put on the bus for a 36-hour journey.

Last week, Mayor Bowser requested that the federal government deploy D.C.’s National Guard to support the nonprofit staff helping migrants.

The federal government would have to call up the D.C. National Guard because the district isn’t a state, but it has not done so. Additionally, some volunteers disagree with what they call a “militarized response” to the humanitarian crisis.

“The governor of Texas has pushed the respite work up to D.C. We’re not a border town so we are not used to doing this type of work,” Nuñez said. His organization has been helping migrants getting off the bus with meals, hygiene kits and a safe place to rest.

“For them, it was just a free ride,” Nuñez said. “They didn’t really have any other options and were offered a bus to the East Coast — Washington, D.C. — which some of them understood was closer to their final destination … so they were happy.”

But he added that with only local volunteers and nonprofit staff greeting the buses, and with no government support to greet them, the migrants were confused at the disorder that they found once they got to D.C.

Illegal immigration along our southern border has been a problem as long as I can remember, which is a pretty long time. We haven’t been able to control access and don’t have the resources to patrol a 2000-mile border with a developing nation that itself is much more prosperous that the states to its south. And, no, it’s not at all reasonable that Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have to bear the brunt of the burden of dealing with the situation.

But, holy hell, putting people who don’t speak English and have no money on a one-way bus to a city that’s not prepared for them is criminal. (Apparently, Abbott is also sending some migrants to New York City.) This is taking “owing the libs” to a whole new level.

This is even worse than the policy that surfaced a few years back wherein mayors of multiple cities were offering free bus tickets to the homeless to get them to relocate elsewhere. At least there the people had a choice and, indeed, might have wound up in a better situation.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    In response, perhaps NYC & DC should buy bus tickets for their own homeless. It would be a winning trade for NY & DC, mostly young, mostly ambitious individuals for their chemically dependent and mentally ill. Jonathan Swift would approve.

    Since they won’t do that, they should make lemonade from lemons and work to find employment and housing. Screw the whole green card issue and allow people to help themselves.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Seriously. Wait until February and hit the shelters or people staying in Union Station or the public libraries and offer them a hot meal and a ticket on a heated bus with comfortable seats to a warm climate in Texas or Arizona. We could send thousands. Spread this program to the whole snow belt and we could send tens of thousands! They would have a hell of a lot better chance of surviving the winter.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    New York City should bus people convicted of gun offenses to Texas when they get out of prison. I mean, Texas likes the second amendment and should be happy to have them, right?

  4. Kathy says:

    Nothing good will come from using human beings as game pieces.

  5. This underscores the fact that Abbott and his ilk see these immigrants as not worthy of being treated like human beings (which is at the core of why we, as a country, can’t figure out a better set of policies).

    So, I will add inhumane to insidious and criminal.

    And, as alluded to in the OP, it is a pretty crazy “policy” (scare quotes very much intended) if you are someone who is truly worried about illegal immigration because this “policy” just makes it easier for a large number of undocumented persons to be dispersed deep into the United States.

    So let me add unserious to the list.

    And BTW: I saw a clip of Abbott (I think from CPAC) soliciting funds to pay for busses to ship immigrants north.

  6. @Kathy: Indeed.

  7. Michael Cain says:

    Local coverage of the Arizona program includes: (a) the only people bused by Arizona have volunteered after the situation is explained in detail to them, (b) since May, with hundreds of people crossing per day, a total of 600 have volunteered and been bused, and (c) almost all of those volunteering entered the country wanting to get to the East Coast.

    The Biden DHS appears to be planning a much larger program for moving migrants away from the Southwest border by bus and plane pending their immigration hearings in order to reduce the load on local charities and spread the load across more immigration courts.

  8. Gavin says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    truly worried about illegal immigration

    Dr.Taylor, this is all so much grandstanding/nonsense. If Congress passes legislation to staff up CBP to do random unannounced sweeps of any business and fine that business no less than $75,000 per undocumented immigrant found on premises, this stops as a problem before the close of business. Sure, there’s always some immigrants who will slip in — and that won’t stop — but the main reason immigrants are trafficked is for labor exploitation in businesses such as meat processing, sweatshops, restaurants and the like.
    Who wants to bet the Chamber of Commerce is against the fines.. and in favor of Abbott’s continued distractions?

  9. Gavin says:

    in first sentence, this = Abbott’s ridiculousness

    It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an edit button…

  10. al Ameda says:

    Basically this is, and I’m being generous here, just another ‘own the libs’ action. With Abbott and Ducey, and probably the majority of Republican elected officials, the point is the cruelty.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    NYC should return the favor by busing all the people on Rykers Island to Arizona and Texas. s//

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But, holy hell, putting people who don’t speak English and have no money on a one-way bus to a city that’s not prepared for them is criminal cruel.

    Fixed that for you, James. Always remember, the cruelty is the point.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gavin: No way would Republicans and their financial bacckers ever allow good, honest, law abiding, hard working Americans to be fined for the simple mistake of hiring a couple hundred illegal immigrants. It’s a mistake anybody could make.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    As other commenters have noted, this is not, and is not intended to be, a solution to anything but said governors’ political problems. DeSantis has pretty much stayed ahead of Abbott in the base pandering game. He must be jealous and wishing FL had a border with Mexico.

  15. Scott says:

    Language is kind of sloppy here. These are not illegal immigrants. They have been processed by the DHS and are awaiting court dates, etc. Many more who don’t meet the criteria are sent back home.

    As mentioned above, everybody can play this game. Just think if Gov Newsome decides to play and send buses to Austin.

  16. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico

    California also borders Mexico. Neither California nor New Mexico is busing migrants to DC and New York. Both have Democratic governors. Funny that.

  17. JKB says:

    But, holy hell, putting people who don’t speak English and have no money on a one-way bus to a city that’s not prepared for them is criminal.

    So you prefer the Biden administration way of a one-way flight that lands in the middle of the night? Got it, bussing bad, by plane good?

    And both DC and NYC are illegal immigrant sanctuary cities, so should be welcoming of these individuals.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: Citation please. From a reputable source.

    Not that I don’t trust you, but … I don’t trust you.

  19. Kari Q says:


    This may shock you, but there is a false claim that Biden is secretly flying planes full of immigrants around the country.

    According to Politifact, it’s based on the practice of sending unaccompanied minors to family or guardians, a practice begun during the previous administration, by the least expensive means available. Sometimes that means a flight that arrives late.

  20. al Ameda says:


    So you prefer the Biden administration way of a one-way flight that lands in the middle of the night? Got it, bussing bad, by plane good?

    So, this must be a conservative improvised riff on the old 90’s hate-Clinton rumor associated with then-Gov. Bill Clinton, that he sanctioned CIA use of the Mena airfield in Arkansas as a secret base for smuggling cocaine into the US from Central America.

  21. john430 says:

    Down here in south Texas we see the complaints of NYC, DC, et al as a simple case of “Hooray for illegal aliens, but NIMBY!”

  22. Jen Hordonett says:

    @MarkedMan: Wow! The heat here would kill them faster. We don’t have homes for them, it’s 100+ degrees in the shade. It’s not our policy letting them come in its Bidens. Harris is supposed to be the one in charge of this, let her help them.

  23. John430 says:

    @Scott: LOL! Californians are voluntarily relocating to Texas by the busload! Newsom makes it impossible to live in California.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I trust JKB; almost everything he says is full of…

    We’ll just stop at “of” for the sake of not starting another quarrel.

  25. JohnSF says:

    In Britain we are one up on this.
    Our absurd government are intent on (primarily for performative dance for the silly Tory base) on transporting “unauthorised” asylum seekers and similar migrants to Rwanda.
    It’s ludicrous on a whole variety of levels, but as long as it panders, it will get played.
    And the circle jerk of Party pensioners and tabloid press will lap it up (I suspect most tabloid journalists know how silly it is, but pandering/revving the readership boosts the bottom line).

    Latest estimates are the whole policy will deliver only a few hundred migrants to Rwanda, at a cost of around £100,000 per head.
    To a country with a rather patchy human rights record.
    And if any so deported turn out to have genuine asylum claims (likely most given the stats.) they will be granted asylum.
    In Rwanda!

    When objections are raised to this, the routine response of Conservatives lately is “What’s wrong with Rwanda, then foolish leftist? Are you RASCIST! Ha! Gotcha! Fooled by our Tory-jitsu!”

    Ignoring what happened when Israel tried sending asylum seekers to Rwanda: they simply set off again.

    Rwandan government is happy, so long as it gets paid.
    Entirely coincidentally, the president of Rwanda has a net worth of some $500 million.

  26. Hal_10000 says:

    The GOP is not a party in any real sense. It’s a performative reality TV show.

  27. Thomas Russell Weaver says:

    I’ve suggested to both Gov Abbott and Gov DeSantis to send the illegals to Wilmington, DE but they thought the impact of what’s happening at the southern border ought to be felt where others would take quicker notice. Hey Kids, enjoy it with lots more coming…

  28. @John430:

    LOL! Californians are voluntarily relocating to Texas by the busload! Newsom makes it impossible to live in California.


    No one lives there anymore. It’s too crowded.

  29. @al Ameda: I believe he is referring to this: ‘Ghost flights’ are the latest GOP effort to weaponize immigration ahead of midterms.

    When children and teenagers from Central America cross the border alone, the federal government is required by law to care for them until they’re reunited with a sponsor, often a parent or relative, or placed in a network of special shelters around the U.S.

    To do that, federal officials sometimes fly those children on charter planes from the border to other parts of the country. For years, this was widely seen as normal, even routine.

    I think that what JKB is revealing is his media diet more than anything else.

    (Because, surely, he understands the difference between simply shipping and dumping people v. flying them to where services are being provided).

  30. john430 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Stick to your day job. You’ll never make it as a smart-ass or comedian!

  31. @john430: And yet, I think you got my point.