By Paula Escalada Medrano
Washington DC, Oct 6 (EFE).- With just over a month to go before the United States’ Nov. 8 midterm elections, Republican governors are aiming to keep the contentious immigration issue at the forefront of voters’ minds by shipping undocumented migrants to heavily Democratic areas of the country.
The latest example of this strategy occurred Thursday when 41 immigrants bused out of Texas were dropped off near the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, the White House’s point person on immigration and border issues.
A total of 11 children and 30 adults, most of whom had arrived from Venezuela, arrived at 6.15 am at the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC on board a bus sent by Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
Exhausted and wearing inadequate clothing for the cold early morning air, they stepped off the vehicle after a 36-hour journey without a clear sense of what their future holds.
That trip was the latest in a series of bus rides or flights organized by Abbott and other Republican governors to draw attention to a surge in undocumented migration to the US.
Those GOP elected officials say their states are being overburdened by illegal immigration and accuse President Joe Biden’s administration of being unwilling to address the issue.
Democrats say the trips are cruel and a cheap political stunt that further exacerbates the hardships facing migrants, who are dropped off on the street and must later be transferred by SAMU First Response and other humanitarian NGOs to places prepared to receive them, such as Washington DC’s Union Station.
Four of the occupants on the bus that arrived Thursday were Rocio, her husband and their two children aged 18 months and five years. Natives of the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto, that couple told Efe minutes after exiting the vehicle that another older child of theirs had stayed behind with Rocio’s mother.
She said it took them two months to make it to the United States and that “with God’s help” they had avoided being robbed, beaten, raped, extorted or kidnapped during the perilous journey.
“We only had a bad experience in Mexico,” Rocio said. Immigration authorities “caught us several times and made us partially reverse course.”
One of the toughest stretches, her husband said, was crossing the Darien Gap, a lawless, treacherous 95-kilometer (60-mile) expanse of dense jungle straddling Panama and Colombia whose dangers include a powerful Colombian criminal gang known as the Clan del Golfo, turbulent rivers, rugged hills and deadly wild animals.
He added that “many children died” during that crossing.
Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, told Efe that her organization has provided humanitarian assistance to around 3,830 people, not including those who arrived on Thursday nor those who arrived the day before from Arizona.
She said beds for three or four nights have been provided to roughly 1,000 individuals.
Once at one of the group’s emergency shelters, the migrants are steered toward aid programs run by local governments with the aim ensuring their economic sustenance in a country with high costs of housing and other essentials.
As long as they remain undocumented, however, that government assistance does not include help in finding work.
“What they find here may be much better than what they have, but it’s not as easy as they think. Many of them, and it happens again and again, come here thinking (getting their papers) isn’t that difficult and that’s the first shock because very few get them,” Laborde said.
Even so, for Rocio and her husband nothing can take away the hope they feel today in seeing the majestic arches of Union Station and knowing they have a chance at a new life in the US.
“Thank God, all the doors opened wide,” she said. EFE