Over 100 migrants and refugees arrived at vice-president Kamala Harris’s house on Christmas Eve — some dressed in “little more than a T-shirt,” per the New York Times, as temperatures plunged below 20 degrees in the capital. The Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, which helped find housing, food, and warm clothing for the asylum seekers, said the Texas Division of Emergency Management apparently orchestrated the stunt and pegged responsibility on Governor Greg Abbott.
“They have been doing that for a few months now; it’s all for the spectacle,” one of the group’s organizers, Madhvi Bahl, told the Times. “The cruelty is the point. It’s awful to use people in this manner, for political reasons.”
Abbott is among the conservative governors who have been sending buses full of migrants to Washington, D.C., and sanctuary cities, in protest of the Biden administration’s plan to end Title 42. Activated in the early days of the pandemic, that measure allows officials to expel migrants or deny them entry ostensibly as a public-health precaution. Federal lawsuits out of Republican-led states have so far prevented officials from lifting the policy, and last week, Abbott wrote a letter to the president complaining that doing so would exacerbate the existing “catastrophe” on the state’s southern border and “leave many people in the bitter, dangerous cold as a polar vortex moves into Texas.”
A few days later, volunteers received about 130 migrants at the Naval Observatory — where Harris lives and where Republican governors have previously sent charter buses — in temperatures that had dropped to about 18 degrees. The buses were originally slated to go to New York but were rerouted because of punishing winter weather. On Saturday, local aid groups greeted the passengers as they disembarked — after a two-day trip — in what the Washington Post describes as a “hastily arranged welcoming,” providing meals, warmer clothes, and shelter at a church. While Abbott’s office has not confirmed that he organized the trip, a spokesperson remarked to the Times that the migrants had already been “processed and released by the federal government,” so the criticism was “hypocritical.” On Christmas Day, White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan told the Times that “these political games accomplish nothing and only put lives in danger.”
“Governor Abbott abandoned children on the side of the road in below-freezing temperatures on Christmas Eve without coordinating with any federal or local authorities,” Hasan said. “This was a cruel, dangerous, and shameful stunt.”