The Washington city council unanimously approved the launch of the new agency after Mayor Muriel Bowser called for it to respond to the needs of migrants.
“In establishing the Office of Migrant Services, we are staying true to our DC values by creating a framework to support individuals and families while ensuring that the homeless services system continues to support our DC residents,” said Bowser, a Democrat. .
The new agency will be part of the district’s Department of Human Services. Its goal is to provide basic necessities to arriving migrants, including meals, transportation, urgent medical care, and transportation to connect people to resettlement services.
The district will allocate $10 million to set up and support the new office, and Bowser said he will seek reimbursement for a portion of that funding through the U.S. Emergency Management Agency.
About 8,000 migrants have arrived in the capital in the last six months, according to Councilor Brianna Nadeau, who sponsored the bill that proposes the creation of the agency. Nadeau believes passing the bill could help the city better support migrants, his spokeswoman said.
“This legislation will ensure that every migrant is welcomed by a bilingual and culturally competent professional, that they have rest, that they have food and clothing, that they are safe and that they are welcome,” Nadeau said.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state deliberately sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ official residence in Washington.
Dozens of migrants were left outside the gated residence on lawns and sidewalks because the team’s response officers were unwilling to meet them there, leaving volunteers scrambling to make arrangements.
SAMU First Response, one of Washington’s migrant aid groups, was not notified in advance of the drop-off location, according to Tatiana Laborde, the group’s managing director.
“By the time our team reached the migrants, they were very lost,” Laborde told CNN Thursday morning. “(The migrants) didn’t understand where they were – it’s a very residential area.”
Abbott’s efforts to send migrants to Washington and New York have cost his state more than $12 million.
“President Harris says our border is ‘secure’ and denies a crisis,” Abbott tweeted. “We’re sending migrants into their backyard to demand that the Biden Administration do its job and secure the border.”
Also last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis welcomed the fact that about 50 migrants had been flown to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, which the group did not expect. The Republican governor’s move was met with backlash from the White House, migrant advocates and Democratic officials.
“We’re not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and yes, we’ll help facilitate that transportation so you can go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said last week. “Every community in America should share the burdens. It shouldn’t all fall on a few red states.”
The term “sanctuary state” is a broad description applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place to limit cooperation or participation in federal immigration enforcement actions.
Similarly, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has sent more than 1,800 migrants to Washington, and has no plans to stop, according to the Republican governor’s office. Since last week, 50 buses carrying migrants from Colombia, Peru and Venezuela have left the migrants in the capital, with efforts of around 4 million dollars.
CNN’s Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.