State governors can call in their National Guard troops without the consent of the federal government for a wide variety of tasks. But since DC isn’t a state, Bowser can’t activate the Guard without Department of Defense approval. She had sent a letter asking for help last month.
“When the district mayor says she needs or he needs … the DC National Guard to support the safe functioning of our city, we expect fair consideration,” Bowser said Friday shortly after learned that the Ministry of Defense had rejected the request she had made. July 19. The decision was first reported by NBC News.
The Department of Defense issued a statement on the decision on Friday.
“We determined that providing this support would negatively impact the readiness of the DCNG and have negative effects on the organization and members. We understand that SAMU First Response received a grant through FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and advised that sufficient EFSP funds exist at this stage to provide assistance to migrants,” the statement said. communicated.
Bowser faulted both Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) and the Biden administration for treating the busing of thousands of migrants who crossed the Mexican border as a political issue, rather than focusing on the pressing needs of people who get off the bus without plans. to know where they will sleep.
“I have done — regardless of Texas Republicans or Pennsylvania Avenue Democrats — what I have to do to lead the city. And when we have a growing humanitarian crisis that we expect, that the federal government foresees, will only get worse, I have to deploy the resources that I need to deal with it. And we need our National Guard,” Bowser said. “If we were a state, I would have done it already. I would have deployed the national guard.
Abbott began sending migrants to DC by bus in April, to underscore his disagreements with Biden on immigration. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) then followed suit.
Volunteers who have been assisting every arriving bus for weeks, through self-help networks, frowned on Bowser’s proposal to activate the Guard, saying what migrants need are services for the homeless, not a military response.
They pushed the Bowser administration to expand city services such as beds in family shelters for arriving families. DC Council members wondered if the mayor was doing enough with local DC resources to help.
While the federal government has given a grant to a non-profit organization to help migrants, volunteers say much more support is needed. The nonprofit, SAMU First Response, said it could only help about half of the 15 weekly bus arrivals, and the shelter it set up in Maryland for families arriving with children can only accommodate about 50 people who can only stay for three days. .
At times, aids were stretched so thin that arriving migrants had nowhere to go and slept at DC’s Union Station when getting off the bus.
Madhvi Vahl, an organizer with the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, said the group’s 250-300 volunteers spend thousands of dollars a day on donations to meet migrants’ immediate needs, from shoes to medicine to Uber rides to hospitals. Volunteers greet each bus, help migrants find their way to shelters or hotels where the city pays for their accommodation, and sometimes host migrants in their homes.
“The city shouldn’t rely on the labor and funds of DC residents and volunteers to support people and welcome them,” Vahl said, urging Bowser to seek larger FEMA grants to cover housing and living costs. help for migrants. “We” “We are not case managers, you know? Of course we have done our best and will continue to do so as long as we can. But the city must make the decision to really be the sanctuary city who we claim to be.”
Peter Hermann and Vanessa G. Sánchez contributed to this report.