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Texas has been ramping up pressure on Washington, D.C., and more recently on New York City and Chicago, for months as it sends thousands of illegal immigrants to those sanctuary cities’ doorsteps, forcing the city’s mayors to find new ways to respond to what they have dubbed an emergency.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began sending thousands of illegal immigrants to the nation’s capital in April as the migrant crisis overwhelmed border states. In August, buses from Texas started heading to New York City and, in the last week, Chicago. Arizona has also sent buses to Washington.
The moves sparked anger from the liberal mayors of those cities as well as the White House, which has condemned the move as cruel and a political stunt. The Texas governor’s office this week said it has sent nearly 8,000 migrants to Washington, over 2,000 to New York City and just over 300 to Chicago.
But the bussing of the migrants, even though they only make up a fraction of those being encountered every month by states along the southern border, has appeared to panic officials in those cities.
The sanctuary cities — they limit cooperation with federal immigration officials — have taken aim primarily at Abbott but have also put pressure on the federal government to step up and provide help. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday declared a public emergency, having previously declared the situation a “humanitarian crisis.”
Bowser said that the dramatic move allows the city to create an Office of Migrant Services to provide migrants with accommodation, health care, transportation and other services.
“We’re putting in place a framework that would allow us to have a coordinated response with our partners,” Bowser said Thursday. “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.”
She blasted the federal government for a “lacking” response and said the move was necessary to make sure Washington’s safety net is not “broken by a crisis that is certainly not of our making.”
Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams sent a delegation to the border, where they met with Border Patrol officials in Eagle Pass, Texas, near the Rio Grande. A source familiar with the visit told Fox News that the delegation’s trip included a tour of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) new temporary processing center in Eagle Pass, which is packed with migrants and can house up to 1,000 people.
In a statement, Adams’ office accused Abbott’s office of being “unresponsive” and turning the situation “into a political sideshow.”
Migrants arrive in Chicago from Texas (Fox News)
“We’ve sent members of the team down on a fact-finding mission to hear directly from folks on the ground along the southern border and get the real answers we’re not getting from Texas, including whether they are sending asylum seekers to New York City even if they prefer to go elsewhere,” press secretary Fabian Levy said in a statement.
“Here in New York, we will continue to welcome asylum seekers with open arms, as we learn more about the process, meet with real partners and see, firsthand, the reportedly inhumane conditions in which asylum seekers are being subjected to by the state of Texas.”
Abbott has said that his moves are designed to both relieve overwhelmed border communities and also to draw attention to the raging crisis at the southern border, where more than 2 million migrants have been encountered this fiscal year.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News Digital that the visit by Adams’ team was a sign that Abbott’s gambit is working.
“It absolutely is a sign that it’s working. And frankly, I’m glad that Mayor Adams is opening his mouth, because when he does that, he’s bringing more attention to the issue. And as more attention gets brought to the issue, there’s a better chance that we’re going to get a change, because the vast majority of the American people do not want an open border,” Judd said.
Judd also said he hoped the visit would show to Adams’ team that “there is a crisis on the border that is driven by policy.”
“That’s what we would hope that they would recognize,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to because that goes against their own party’s talking points. But we would hope that they would recognize the truth. And the truth is this illegal immigration crisis is caused by policy and it’s caused by this White House.”
In Chicago, where just a few hundred migrants have moved, Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused Abbott of “manufacturing a human crisis” but stressed the city would help the migrants.
“We are a welcoming city,” Lightfoot said. “We are always going to step up and do the right thing to make sure that migrants coming into our city are well received, that they’re supported.” She also stressed the need for “any assistance we can get from the federal government.”
As all three liberal cities push the federal government to step up, while also sounding the alarm about the stresses they face, former Trump DHS officials said they too believed that Abbott’s strategy is paying off.
“I think what Gov. Abbott has done successfully is create a national conversation on this,” former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan told Fox News Digital. “And he called out people who wanted to declare themselves a sanctuary city for political purposes — but when they’re called on it, they’re in a panic.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, left, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have feuded over immigration. (Getty Images)
Ken Cuccinelli, former acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, told Fox that the bussing is creating political pressure on the White House, particularly with just a few months until the midterms.
“The major outcome of it that they’ve got to hate is that — I’ll talk about it in the polling terms — it’s staying high on people’s issue radar,” he said. “The economy is No. 1, and it should be because it’s frankly destroying so many people’s lives. But this isn’t fading away, and it’s been elevated [by the bussing].”
Cuccinelli accused the mayors of being “politically stupid” with their public reactions to the buses.
“It is a level of political stupidity that astonishes me, and I don’t think the White House … I think they just assumed their own team would be smarter than this.”
Mark Morgan, former acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner, told Fox he believes there are frantic conversations within the administration.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that CBP, DHS and the White House, they’re having conversations, because when I was commissioner, I had the same conversations with [Cuccinelli] and the White House when issues like this came up,” Morgan said. “So there’s no doubt in my mind that those three entities are scrambling, trying to figure out from a legal perspective how they could stop [Abbott] from bussing these individuals.”
So far, there has been so indication from Texas that the buses will stop. Abbott said last week that Texas “will continue providing relief to our small, overrun border towns by bussing migrants to sanctuary cities that boast services to care for them.”
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, with a focus on immigration. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY