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US: Migrants dropped in frigid weather outside VP's home

December 26, 2022

Over 100 migrants, including small children, were dropped-off in freezing temperatures outside Vice President Kamala Harris' home over the holiday. A White House spokesperson described the move as a "cruel" stunt.

 This image provided by WJLA shows migrant families as they get on a bus to transport them from near the Vice President's residence in Washington DC
Migrants were bussed from Texas and stopped near Vice President Kamala Harris' residence in Washington, D.C.Image: WJLA via AP/picture alliance

Rights groups and the US government sharply criticized on Sunday the bussing of dozens of asylum-seekers in frigid and dangerous weather conditions to Washington, D.C.

Although Texas officials have not confirmed whether the state coordinated their transport, the move is reminiscent of similar actions taken by Governor Greg Abbott and other Republican state leaders.

What happened with the people on the bus?

Between 110 and 130 people seeking asylum in the United States were placed on charter busses and driven from the border with Mexico in Texas to the US capital.

They were dropped-off near the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday night, when Christmas Eve celebrations were taking place.

Young children were among those on board the busses. Some people were only clad in t-shirts when they reached Washington, D.C. At the time, temperatures in the capital were around 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius).

The journey and drop-off took place as a massive winter storm brought snow, ice and extreme cold to 60% of the US.

This image provided by WJLA shows migrant families as they get on to a bus to transport them from near the Vice President's residence
An aid organization handed out blankets and brought the new arrivals to a local church to ensure they had somewhere warm to stayImage: WJLA via AP/picture alliance

The migrants had been placed on the bus by Texas officials, said Tatiana Laborde, managing director of the relief agency SAMU First Response.

Aid groups received the group and had blankets ready for them. They were moved onto other busses and were taken to a local church and given dinner and breakfast.

Laborde said many of the new arrivals were originally from Ecuador and Colombia. They are expected to travel further from Washington to New York City or New Jersey where they have family or community support.

In the past week, nine busloads of asylum-seekers have been dropped off in Washington, Laborde said.

What was the reaction?

Texas state leader Greg Abbot's office did not respond on Sunday to requests for comment and have not confirmed whether the state organized the latest transportation.

His office, however, recently said that Texas has bussed over 15,000 migrants since April this year to cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington.

Migrants in Mexico’s Oaxaca state

President Joe Biden's administration criticized the latest bus drop off, not only for its timing over Christmas weekend, but also that the transport took place during dangerous winter weather conditions.

The drop-offs were a "cruel, dangerous, and shameful stunt," White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan said in a statement on Sunday.

"As we have repeatedly said, we are willing to work with anyone — Republican or Democrat alike — on real solutions, like the comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures President Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office, but these political games accomplish nothing and only put lives in danger," Hasan said.

Republican-Democrat clash on immigration

Abbot and other Republican state governors have organized bus transport for migrants on the US-Mexico border to cities that are Democrat controlled.

The move is meant to protest against the Biden administration's immigration policies. Vice President Harris is the government's point person for addressing the root causes of migration.

Republicans argue that the Biden administration has relaxed immigration restrictions and encouraged people to leave their countries of origin and try for a better life in the US.

While Biden has ended some policies, he has also kept some controversial immigration policies enacted by former President Donald Trump.

rs/sri (AP, Reuters)

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