WASHINGTON — Some of the asylum seekers who have recently traveled to D.C. by bus say they came to the District under false pretenses.
The state of Texas has been sending migrants to D.C. since April. The state of Arizona started to conduct the same practice in May.
The two states have sent more than 4,000 people combined to the District. Officials in both states say the participating migrants voluntarily agreed to take a bus trip north.
Many of the passengers on those buses had plans to go elsewhere after they arrived in D.C.
On Thursday, WUSA9 reporter Rafael Sanchez-Cruz talked to Ana Karina Arce Polano, an asylum seeker from Venezuela.
The mother of two says a man in a badge and uniform, in Texas, told her family they would be sent to Colorado after they got to D.C.
She said that ultimately did not happen.
"We arrived here with faith to give them a better life and it turns out that we do not even have a place to sleep and no way to get where we want to go,” she said.
Barbara Diaz, an asylum seeker and mother of three from Venezuela, also said a Texas official told her family someone in D.C. would ultimately provide her family with a bus ride or flight to Chicago.
“But it was all a lie,” she said.
Local non-profit groups say they have also heard similar stories from the migrants they have assisted outside Union Station in D.C.
It is unclear exactly who is promising future assistance to the Arizona and Texas bus passengers.
WUSA9 requested comment from both Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Emergency Management, but it has yet to get a reply from either office.
However, the office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey did provide comment on the matter.
“If anyone is being misled, we certainly want to know about it,” said Ducey’s communications director CJ Karamargin.
A person seeking asylum goes through many steps before they ever board a bus for D.C.
Once a migrant seeking asylum reaches the United States border in Arizona, they turn themselves over to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
After that, they are typically directed to go to a non-governmental organization named the Regional Center for Border Health (RCFBH). That non-profit is in Somerton, Arizona, just a 12-mile-long ride from the San Luis Port of Entry at the United States-Mexican border.
RCFBH provides medical services to people in western Arizona and the border region.
Ducey’s office says migrants are typically informed of the state’s offer to bus them to D.C. at RCFBH.
However, Arizona state officials add there is a lot they do not know about what is being told to migrants before they get on a bus. Misunderstandings resulting from language barriers between migrants and border officials can pop up too.
WUSA9 reached out to DHS, CBP, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to see if they were aware of any federal employees on the borders promising migrants they would be assisted once they get to D.C. Those agencies have yet to respond.
Still, the state of Arizona says one thing is for sure: the people who get on their buses often don’t want to stay in D.C.
Ducey’s spokesperson says it has sent 27 buses, containing 1,031 migrants, to D.C. since the middle of May.
The buses, which average 40 passengers and go to D.C. two to three times a week, are usually full of people who want to ultimately end up in other locations on the East Coast.
Arizona says half of the people who have volunteered to get on buses have expressed interest in going to New York or New Jersey, while a little under 20 percent have said they want to go to Florida.
Sixty-percent of the migrants that cross the border into Arizona and get on buses have come from the country of Colombia, according to Ducey’s office. Many others call Peru, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua home.
However, some migrants have come from much farther away.
Eighteen people from Russia have gotten on buses to head toward D.C. as well.