At 6 AM on a Wednesday, I joined community organizers and volunteers outside Union Station to greet migrants bused from the US-Mexico border to Washington DC. I expected everyone to arrive haggard and exhausted, as I feel after just a few hours on a bus. Instead, they came bright-faced and smiling, exuberant to have arrived.
A month ago, Governor Abbott of Texas began sending buses of migrants from the Southern border to DC, in an effort to “take the border to Joe Biden.” While the move may have scored him a few political points with his typical base, it has had far from the intended effect, as DC groups—and the larger community—mobilized rapidly to welcome them.
I met a woman from Nicaragua who was excited to be in DC and hoped to stay and find work in the District. A young couple from Venezuela was headed to Ohio, where they planned to find treatment for their pregnant sister-in-law. A father from Cuba had come on his own and was already searching for a way to support himself and his family back home.
During the legal orientation, a representative asked if they had received a cellphone. Everyone there raised a black device, the basis of claims that the administration was “giving away free smartphones.” However, these were part of the so-called “alternatives to detention,” another method of invasive surveillance. The program requires migrants to constantly self-report their location through an app; all other functions on the device are disabled.
Despite the discourse of Biden's “open borders,” the reality is that seeking asylum remains the most difficult it has ever been. Title 42 has blocked over a million potential asylum seekers since the start of the pandemic. Though Biden has mostly blocked new border construction under Trump's plan, he has quietly funneled billions into a digital border wall, from watchtowers and drones to a vast digital surveillance system. While I had seen the reports, it was startling to see this represented in the heart of Washington DC.
How to Take Action: That Abbott's political stunt has not had the intended disrupting effect is in large part due to the organizing and mutual aid efforts by Sanctuary DMV. But it seems that Texas, and now Arizona, plan to ramp up the number of migrants sent to D.C., just as volunteers and organizers are at capacity.
Now is the time to step up and demonstrate that our communities are capable of welcoming our new neighbors with dignity and respect. Here are just a few ways to help:
- Volunteer: If you are in the DMV, there are many ways to volunteer, from sorting donations to greeting new arrivals. Spanish, Portuguese, and French speakers are greatly needed.
- Gift supplies: Or ship supplies from anywhere through the wishlist. Undergarments, Men's clothing, and toiletries are especially needed.
- Donate to support mutual aid efforts.
Click HERE for the full list of links.