More than two dozen immigrants arrived in Philadelphia in the US state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday through Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial migrant busing program.
“It is sad and outrageous that Governor Abbott and his administration continue to implement their cruel and racist policies using immigrant families — including children — as pawns to shamelessly push their warped political agenda,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement, adding that the strategy was “truly disgusting.”
The bus carrying 28 immigrants from the southern state is part of Abbott’s effort to bring the challenges of the US-Mexico border to northern Democratic cities.
The city in the state of Pennsylvania was added to the list, which already included Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.
“Since April, Texas’ busing strategy has successfully provided much-needed relief to our border communities overwhelmed by the historic influx of migrants caused by President (Joe) Biden’s reckless open border policies,” Abbott said in a statement. “Until the Biden Administration does its job and provides Texans and the American people with sustainable border security, Texas will continue doing more than any other state in the nation’s history to defend against an invasion along the border, including adding more sanctuary cities like Philadelphia as drop-off locations for our busing strategy.”
Immigration advocates in Philadelphia called the bus ride a cruel trick played on innocent people.
“Time and time again, immigrants are used as tokens to advance the political agendas of individuals who have no interest in our communities’ well-being,” said Erika Guadalupe Nunez, executive director of the Juntos advocacy group. “Governor Abbott’s busing efforts serve as a ploy to wreak social discord and spread misinformation over the human right to seek asylum and what it means to be a Welcoming City. We will not be fooled by his efforts.”
Through Monday, Texas had bused 13,200 migrants to Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. with 28 more added with the Philadelphia drop-off.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management, which manages the busing program, said the state has spent $26 million since the program began in April.
“Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has long-celebrated and fought for sanctuary city status, making the city an ideal addition to Texas’ list of drop-off locations,” said Abbott.
Kenney said he welcomed the migrants and that Philadelphia had been preparing since the summer for the possibility that Texas would be conducting the same stunt in his city.
“We will greet our newly arrived neighbors with dignity and respect,” said Kenney. “Philadelphians know that diversity is our strength, and we want to acknowledge the generosity and compassion we have already seen from residents and community partners since we were alerted to a possible bus arriving in Philadelphia.”
“Seeking asylum is a human right,” said Philadelphia city councilmember Helen Gym. “Our country has always welcomed people seeking refuge here, and we have flourished because of that. Our city and country are strongest when we embrace and welcome people searching for a better life.”