Immigrants looking for new lives are not a National Guard emergency

Photo for The Washington Post by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades.
Ciara Pierre, 1, plays with Joel Vasquez, 1, who sits in mother Liliana Cruz’s lap after arriving alongside other migrants at Union Station in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2022, following a bus ride that originated in Texas

Let’s get this sorted out.

When thousands of people wearing surplus store armor storm the city, many carrying bear spray and weapons, many more shouting for the overthrow of the government, that’s the time to call in the National Guard.

When thousands of people come in on buses carrying their worldly possessions in a single bag, many holding crying babies in soiled diapers, many more with no shoes on their feet, that’s not the time for the National Guard.

This is how D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is responding, months into the ongoing political stunt being played by two Republican governors who think it’s hilarious to score political points on the backs of vulnerable people.

She’s asking for the National Guard.

“With pledges from Texas and Arizona to continue these abhorrent operations indefinitely, the situation is dire, and we consider this a humanitarian crisis,” The Democratic mayor’s office said in a letter to the secretary of defense, asking for federal help.

In the past month, “the pace of arriving buses and the volume of arrivals have reached tipping points,” said the mayor’s letter, obtained by NBC News. “Our collective response and service efforts have now become overwhelmed: the regional welcome center we helped establish in Montgomery County, Maryland is at capacity; our homeless services system is already under great strain; and, tragically, many families arrive in Washington, D.C. with nowhere to go, or they remain in limbo seeking onward destinations across the United States.”

The city want to use the D.C. Armory as a processing center, staffed by unarmed personnel.

The aid workers who have been doing much of the work – greeting buses arriving at Union Station at all hours, getting the migrants clothing, diapers and food before working out the next steps on their paths to citizenship – are mostly horrified by the prospect of working with the military.

“What I’ve been hearing consistently from migrants is that when the military is there, they get treated like militants,” said Bianca Vazquez, who has been an organizer with the mutual-aid groups meeting the migrants.

As a nation, we have a history of militarizing the immigration process.

A fun trip to Ellis Island’s historical exhibits will show you some of the holding cells that migrants described as “kennels,” where aspiring Americans were caged for weeks, months or even years before they were processed.

In this latest, grim chapter of the way America chooses Americans, migrants have been bused to D.C. as a protest. It began in April, when the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, announced he would export his state’s chaos to the nation’s capital after the Biden administration’s ending of Title 42, the suspension of admission and asylum during the pandemic. Another Republican, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, soon joined in, sending buses of migrants from his state, too.

Buses come nearly every day, sometimes two or three a day, aid workers said. They’ve dropped off more than 4,000 immigrants so far, with plenty more to come. And D.C. doesn’t have the resources to help everyone.

Photo for The Washington Post by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades.
A religious group distributes bread after migrants arrive at Union Station in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2022, following a bus ride that originated in Texas.



Laugh-crying GIFs and emoji galore is how right-wingers are greeting Bowser’s request for help, believing that D.C. is finally getting a taste of what border states have been living for years now.

Let’s get something straight – this crisis is not about handling crowds or lawbreakers.

Washington, D.C., knows how to be a good host, America.

D.C. welcomes your fidgeting middle school tour groups, your loons, your extremists, the sex offenders and the addicts you send to represent you in Congress.

It has posh steak houses for your egotists and specialty clubs of all flavors to satisfy their various kinks. The police force is primo at spotting your drunk drivers, and it has flex cuffs for days when the protesters come to town. The local DEA agents know where your congressman is getting his drugs.

The nation’s capital is very good at managing a daily influx of people.

But the 4,000 migrants aren’t just a crowd to be managed by the National Guard. This isn’t a policing problem or a military emergency.

These are vulnerable people who are here to make new lives for themselves – the very foundations of everything that is America. And what better place to do it than in Washington, D.C.?

The aid groups have asked for help creating a welcome center, funding housing programs and committing resources to help them begin the process of becoming legal Americans. Many of the migrants go on to family in New York, Boston and Iowa. And D.C. simply needs to do this as efficiently and morally as possible.

D.C. has done it many times before. And it can do it again.

This is a humanitarian crisis, and Washington, D.C., needs to approach it with humanity.