Sep 9, 2022 - News

Philadelphia preps for possibility of migrant buses arriving

Illustration of a city bus that says "Next Stop."
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's efforts to bring the border crisis to Democratic mayors' doorsteps has city hall officials in Philly, and across the country, huddling about what to do the moment a bus pulls up.

Why it matters: Critics call it a political stunt, but the migrant busing effort will test the values of so-called sanctuary cities as their mayors grapple with social safety-net issues, Axios Austin's Asher Price reports.

What's happened: Texas has already sent thousands of migrants to New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The nation's capital declared a public emergency yesterday in response to the thousands of migrants sent to the city on buses.

  • And other cities could be added to the list.

Zoom in: Philadelphia isn't aware of any buses headed its way but officials are considering what to do if that happens.

  • "The city is inventorying existing resources should those seeking safe refuge find their way to Philadelphia," Kevin Lessard, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, told Axios.
  • The Kenney administration doesn't expect to receive any notice if buses are coming.
  • The city is also aware of migrants who have made their way to Philly on their own, Lessard said.

By the numbers: As part of Abbott's Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar effort to tamp down border crossings, Texas has bused more than 7,600 migrants to D.C. since April and more than 1,900 to New York City since early August.

  • The first two buses arrived in Chicago at the end of August with over 95 migrants from Texas.
  • The effort has cost Texas at least $12.5 million, or close to $1,300 per person per trip, the El Paso Times reported.

Of note: Asked if Philadelphia would receive any buses of migrants, an Abbott administration spokesperson told Axios that the effort was "still only busing to D.C., NYC, and Chicago."

What they're saying: Erika Guadalupe Nunez, executive director of the immigrant rights organization Juntos, told Axios that Texas' bus effort should compel Philadelphia to reassess how it assists migrants and boost investments in communities where immigrants settle.

  • Plus: Nunez said the potential of buses coming here was an opportunity for the city to become a national leader for how to welcome immigrants.
  • "Our community would find a way to support them," she said.

What's next: Regarding which additional cities he plans to target, Abbott is playing it close to the vest.

  • "Stay tuned," his spokesperson told Axios.

Axios Local's Asher Price, Melissa Santos, and Justin Kaufmann contributed to this story.

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