DC Mayor Muriel Bowser told a press conference Thursday that city employees and community organizations joining the city in carrying out an increased effort to help thousands of migrants being transported by bus in the district from Texas and Arizona will “absolutely” take action. ensure that LGBTQ migrants are treated without prejudice or harassment.
The mayor commented on potential issues affecting LGBTQ migrants in response to a question from The Washington Blade at a press conference where she announced she had declared a public emergency that would allow her to release $10 million municipal funds to support a new Migrant Services office.
She said the new office, created within the DC Department of Social Services, will work with at least three local community groups to provide emergency housing and other services to migrants who arrive on a dozen or more buses. every week since this spring. .
“We know this from the media, and I stress this point – these are figures we cannot exactly verify – but the governors of Texas and Arizona report that they have sent more than 9,400 people to buses to the District of Columbia,” Bowser said at the press conference. “And we know they’re targeting Washington, DC not because of any particular connection to people getting on buses to Washington, DC,” she said. “But they want to make their point to the federal government.”
Bowser was referring to Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Governor Doug Duce (R), who announced plans to bus migrants crossing the Mexican border into Texas and Arizona to the nation’s capital, in part, to highlight what they claim is the Biden administration’s failure to reduce the unprecedented number of migrants entering the United States through the southern border.
In its question to the mayor on LGBTQ migrants, The Blade pointed out that reports have surfaced that LGBTQ migrants, particularly transgender migrants, have faced harassment and, in some cases, violence at places along the southern border where migrants were accommodated and processed. be sent to other states.
“Thank you for bringing this up,” the mayor said. “And everyone we work with, we expect to uphold our DC values, and that includes in this space,” she said, adding that she would “absolutely” ensure that city programs provide assistance to the hundreds of migrants arriving in DC by bus. each week will be sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ migrants.
“With this plan, we are staying true to our DC values and building a system that will support a compassionate, cohesive, and well-coordinated response,” the mayor said in describing the purpose of the newly created city office.
“This is a new challenge for DC, but I’m confident that if we lead with our values, and if we put the right systems in place, which we are doing with the Office of Migrant Services, then we will lead a response that makes our community proud.
The mayor noted that most of the migrants who arrived in DC on buses from Texas and Arizona moved on to other destinations outside of DC.
She said the city is appealing to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for reimbursement of some or all of the $10 million the city is allocating to its enhanced plan to help arriving migrants.
Bowser said at least three community organizations — Montgomery County-based UAS First Response Foundation, and DC-based Catholic Charities and United Way would work with the city to provide services, including temporary housing, to migrants. .
“The Migrant Services Office will provide support for reception, respite, meals, temporary accommodation, urgent medical needs, transportation to final destinations, connection to resettlement services, translation services and other needs as they are determined,” a statement released by the mayor’s office said.
Bowser also said she would send legislation to the DC Council to extend the emergency declaration beyond the 15-day period she has the authority to put in place.
Department of Human Services spokesman Kevin Valentine told the Blade that DHS has arranged for migrants who arrive as families to be temporarily housed in hotels in DC. He said migrants who arrive as single individuals are placed in temporary housing by one or each of the community groups working with the city on the situation of migrants.
Unlike reports of harassment faced by LGBTQ migrants in other states, Valentine said this likely won’t happen under the city’s recently announced migrant program, “given the district’s very strong stance on protection of rights and dignity and all those good things”.