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As DC Council prepares to consider migrant bill, some groups push back

The DC Council is expected to vote on legislation to support migrants bused from Texas and Arizona on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the DC Council will consider legislation to support migrants who are bused to D.C. from Texas and Arizona.

The DC Council will vote on an emergency bill titled the Migrant Services and Supports Emergency Act of 2022.

DC Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced the bill at the request of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Bowser first announced her plans to unveil the bill two weeks ago when she declared a state of emergency in the District regarding the busing of migrants. At that same press conference, she also said the District government would set up an Office for Migrant Services to assist new arrivals.

“We’re putting in place a framework that would allow us to have a coordinated response with our partners,” Bowser previously said. “This will include a program to meet all buses, and given that most people will move on, our primary focus is to make sure we have a humane, efficient, welcome process that will allow people to move on to their final destination.”

The bill calls for the establishment of welcome and reception services, the provision of food, clothing, medical services, cash assistance and other necessities for migrants.

On Friday, Nadeau appeared on the Council’s “Hearing the Council” podcast with host Josh Gibson, who serves as the director of communications for the DC Council.

Prior to the introduction of Bowser’s bill, Nadeau and nine other councilmembers called on the mayor to act in the effort to support migrants.

She told Gibson the proposed Office for Migrant Services is needed in D.C.

“It's also really important to stand this office up, because it's a new situation for the District,” she said. “We've welcomed immigrants in all forms since our existence and now we're having to adapt to receiving them in a different way, in a way that the federal system doesn't really account for. So, we're setting up our own operation.”

But Bowser’s proposal already has some District residents worried.

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless called the legislation a “poison apple” on Thursday. While the organization, LegalAidDC, also tweeted Friday the DC Council should reject the proposal in its current form.

“If unchanged, the bill will weaken basic protections that all unhoused individuals & families deserve when they seek help in the District,” LegalAidDC tweeted.

Among other things, LegalAidDC, also said in a statement it is concerned about the powers it would provide the mayor.

“The bill gives the Mayor unchecked discretion in determining who is eligible for safety net services provided by the Office of Migrant Services,” LegalAidDC said.

Ashley Tjhung, of the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, which has been helping migrants on the ground in DC since April, said her organization is also very disappointed in the bill.

“If you go through the legislation, it uses a lot of words like term-limited, temporary, and there are no permanent solutions for housing,” she said.

The Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network has repeatedly taken issue with Bowser’s claims that the overwhelming majority of migrants do not want to stay in DC once they arrive. The group has said such declarations have taken focus off the need to support those migrants who do want to stay in the District.

Bowser traveled to Miami on Friday to attend the US Conference of Mayors’ fall leadership meeting.

At a press conference, she mentioned the challenges mayors across the country face helping migrants who are bused to their communities from Texas and Arizona. Bowser also emphasized the need for temporary living locations for migrants and assistance from the federal government.

“We're going to have to have some space and we're going to have to prioritize people being able to work and having decent temporary places to live,” she said. “And, so we know that mayors do a lot, but we're not responsible for immigration and so we are calling on the federal government to do what it needs to do.”

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