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Pentagon rejects D.C. mayor's request for National Guard to help with bused migrants

Migrants from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Del Rio, Texas, disembark within view of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2022.  STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has rejected a request from the District of Columbia mayor for the National Guard to help receive migrants bused to Washington, D.C., after determining it would hurt troop readiness. 

The Pentagon has concluded that providing the requested support would negatively impact the readiness of the D.C. National Guard and have adverse effects on the guard and its members, a U.S. defense official said in a statement. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had requested that the guard help the non-governmental organization SAMU First Response "with transportation and reception of migrants arriving in the DC area," the statement said. The official went on to note that SAMU First Response has received some federal funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency which is sufficient at this point for the group to continue to help the District.

In April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, began putting migrants on buses to D.C., initially in response to the Biden administration's efforts to end Title 42, a pandemic-related emergency policy that enables border agents to expel migrants quickly. 

"The Biden administration and a lot of leaders in Congress have no idea about the chaos they have caused by their open border policies," Abbott said in April. He said that government leaders should come to Texas to see for themselves the adverse effects of those policies. "And if they're not going to come to the border, I'm going to take the border to them in Washington, D.C."

Since then, Abbott says he has bused over 6,500 undocumented immigrants to Washington, D.C. 

"They cannot handle that one single challenge, and we deal with that number every single day. I got one thing to tell you and to tell them, there are more buses on the way as we gather at this conference today," Abbott told conservative activists at the CPAC conference in Dallas Thursday. 

A month after Abbott began busing migrants to D.C., Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, followed his lead and also began busing migrants to D.C. 

"With Arizona community resources under all-time demand, and little action or assistance from the federal government, individuals who entered Arizona seeking asylum have the opportunity to voluntarily be transported to Washington, D.C.," he said in a press release at the time. "The transportation will include meals, and onboard staffing and support."

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, told Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation" in July that receiving the migrants required a federal response. 

"I fear that they're being tricked into nationwide bus trips when their final destinations are places all over the United States of America...local taxpayers are not picking up the tab and should not pick up the tab. And we really need a coordinated federal response," Bowser said. 

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