When a bus full of migrants arrived in downtown Los Angeles in mid-June, it generated quite a stir: in a city with one of the country’s largest immigrant populations, this was the first busload to come, courtesy of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The 12th such bus arrived in Los Angeles this week, as part of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s intention to share responsibility for caring for newly arrived migrants with Democratic officials who have advocated a more friendly national immigration policy.
Since last year, both the Texas governor and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have offered migrants free trips from border towns to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other places. Arrivals have strained some cities’ resources, putting a burden on shelters and humanitarian supplies.
“It is abhorrent that an American elected official is using human beings as pawns in his cheap political games,” stated Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass in June of the busing scheme.
However, the number of migrants offered free passage from Texas in the last year is a fraction of those who regularly make their way from the southern border to cities across the country — to places with jobs, family connections, and networks of other immigrants from their home countries. That has been the case for many years.
According to demographers, the majority of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants presently living in all 50 states began their new life with a trip from a border city or airport, usually paid for by a relative, an aid group, or their own funds, rather than the Texas governor.
What was Abbott’s strategy?
Abbott created a plan to contact migrants after they had been vetted by border police and offer them free rides on chartered buses in order to emphasize the enormous number of people crossing the border in recent years, which he blames on the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
“I’m going to take the border to President Biden,” he announced at a news conference in April 2022 after unveiling his plan.
Many migrants have expressed gratitude for the free transportation, as they frequently have little money left after a months-long journey to the US-Mexico border.
“I feel fortunate the governor put me on a bus to Washington,” said Lever Alejos, a Venezuelan brought to Washington, D.C., last July. He got a job and began sending money and gifts to his young son back home. He recently purchased an automobile.
Is it true that everyone takes the bus?
No. In reality, the migrants boarding the Texas-funded buses are only a fraction of the thousands that arrive at the border each month, and some are wary of accepting a free trip.
Since April 2022, the Texas busing program has moved around 34,740 migrants to neighboring states, enough to create a sizable city. However, this is a small subset of the hundreds of thousands who have crossed the border during that time, the most of whom have most likely also found their way to places outside of Texas.
In the last year, New York alone welcomed almost 100,000 migrants; just 13,100 were transported on buses funded by the state of Texas.
Furthermore, numerous migrants cross the border every day in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and even areas of Texas where there is no free bus service. They usually arrange their own travel to their destinations in the United States after being freed by border officials.
Every year, thousands of immigrants board Greyhound buses from Tucson, San Diego, and San Antonio, and some board commercial planes as long as they have identification. They either pay for their own transportation or have relatives or friends who are already in the country purchase tickets for them. In certain circumstances, charitable organizations or volunteers provide money or mileage vouchers for migrant travel.
So, why is there such an unexpected drain on resources in some cities?
Migrants arriving on free buses are more vulnerable than others. This demonstrates a shift in the makeup of migrants crossing the border in the last two years. Venezuelans fleeing economic hardship and political unrest make up a sizable portion of people boarding the Texas buses.
Unlike Mexicans and Central Americans, who have been moving to the United States for decades, Venezuelans are unlikely to have friends and family members to welcome them because their wave of migration is new.
Venezuelans have flooded charitable organizations and volunteer groups with no money and no family since the spring of last year. Venezuelans are more likely to desire to travel to a big city, such as New York, where they anticipate to find jobs and aid because they have no contacts in the United States.
Venezuelans make up the vast bulk of migrants residing in New York’s homeless shelters. They keep coming, but the number has decreased in recent months.
The current influx of Haitians has also proven demanding for some communities, as many of them arrive with limited resources of their own.
The surge of refugees is especially taxing on New York City and Massachusetts, which have right-to-shelter legislation guaranteeing the supply of shelter to anyone who request it, but in Massachusetts, it only applies to families with children and pregnant women.
Why do some migrants stay in homeless shelters for months?
Most migrants who cross the border are seeking asylum in the United States, but they cannot qualify for work permits until six months after filing requests for protection. A backlog has also resulted from the sheer quantity of applications.
It is tough to find work without employment permission. Some migrants find work in the informal economy or are paid in cash to conduct manual labor. Even yet, it takes time for them to save enough money to rent an apartment, and landlords frequently seek proof of income and other papers that they lack.
What other help do the migrants receive?
Depending on the state, families can receive food, medical treatment, and other aid. Every child, regardless of immigration status, has the right to attend public education.
The expense of supporting migrants in New York alone is in the billions of dollars. The financial pressure imposed by newcomers has pushed authorities in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts to declare states of emergency and request federal assistance.