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Migrants arriving on buses to DC sparks immigration debate

The DC Council passed emergency legislation this week aimed at helping migrants. But some are questioning whether the legislation provides long-term help.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — The DC Council passed emergency legislation this week aimed at helping migrants who are being bussed here from the border. But some are questioning whether the legislation will get assistance where it's needed.

City officials now plan to have a 24/7 presence at Union Station moving forward as these buses keep arriving. The Council says they’re bringing an average of 50 more migrants to DC everyday.

Volunteers on the ground say more needs to be done to help long-term, and they aren’t convinced the newly established Office of Migrant Services will do it.

9,400 migrants have arrived in DC over the past 5 months, many in need of food, baby formula, a place to sleep and housing. The Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid network has been meeting those needs, largely through donations and aid from religious groups.

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And volunteers waited months for city leaders to act, according to organizer Mahdvi Bahl.

"We had to fight to get them into schools," she said. "They need support to get health insurance, they need support to get things like diapers and formula those are not provided we provide that. So all these different things that folks need are not being provided and that is our biggest fear is that this office is not set up to cover that and there's nothing in the legislation to cover that."

The Council passed legislation this week to create the Office of Migrant Services, allowing the mayor 10 million dollars in contingency funds to provide asylum seekers with temporary housing, healthcare, and other services like food and education.

But aid workers say the Office will fail to provide long-term solutions, saying the legislation is worded so that it could deny immigrant residents already in DC access to homeless services like housing and eviction help.

"When we saw the text of the bill that was passed Tuesday, it had an entire section dedicated to excluding migrants from accessing homeless services and establishing residency in the district," said Bahl. "So we completely oppose that bill because of this section and are extremely disappointed that they rushed it through with little input from the community."

RELATED: VERIFY: Where is the grant money used to help migrants?

But some councilmembers expressed concerns about taking resources from DC’s homeless residents. The council promised to be back to work next month on long-term solutions.
"What we are doing here today does not exclude folks from accessing services or shelter," said Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau.  "It directs them to the appropriate services and shelter."

With the Office of Migrant Services still being set up, volunteers with the mutual aid network say they will still be greeting buses when they arrive and getting the migrants to respite sites.

One thing both the volunteers and the Mayor agree on: they want more support from the federal government and more funding from FEMA.

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