Oct 5, 2022 - Politics

Arizona Gov. Ducey to keep busing migrants to D.C. until he leaves office

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey speaks behind a lectern

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks Oct. 4 at a media event at the old state Capitol. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Gov. Doug Ducey will continue busing migrants to Washington, D.C., until he leaves office on Jan. 2, he told reporters Tuesday.

Context: Ducey began busing asylum-seekers from Yuma to D.C. in May, partnering with a nonprofit organization called the Regional Center for Border Health.

  • The group works with another nonprofit, the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), when the migrants reach the nation's capital.

What he's saying: "The Biden administration is AWOL on the border, and they're anti-wall. This is a dereliction of duty, and I will continue to do everything we can, including building our own wall and physical barrier. If Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris won't come to the border, I'm going to bring the border to them," Ducey said following Tuesday's event at the state Capitol.

By the numbers: Since the program began, the Ducey administration has sent 57 buses carrying 2,043 migrants to Washington, according to gubernatorial spokesperson CJ Karamargin.

  • Officials say 47.5% of the asylum seekers are from Colombia, 17% are from Venezuela and 16% are from Peru.
  • Ducey said the busing is voluntary and being done responsibly.
  • Most of the migrants who volunteer to go to the nation's capital do so because it's closer to their intended destinations, Karamargin said. He said 25% are trying to reach New York, about 19% hope to get to Florida and 17% intend to travel to New Jersey.

Of note: Karamargin told Axios last week that it was unclear how long the busing would continue but said Tuesday that the flow of migrants in the Yuma area warranted the program's continuation through the end of Ducey's term in office.

  • Officials in Yuma have long complained that they lack the resources and infrastructure to handle the large numbers of people who end up in their community after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ducey is transporting migrants only to Washington, unlike Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have been orchestrating surprise drop-offs in Democrat-controlled cities like Chicago, Martha’s Vineyard and New York, Karamargin stressed.

The other side: Democrats, immigrant rights activists and others have criticized Ducey for the program, accusing him of using migrants for political purposes and asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

  • "Stop the dehumanization of people. Who are you or anybody else to say somebody is not a person deserving of dignity and respect?" David Hernandez, the League of United Latin American Citizens' Arizona state director, said last week, Arizona's Family reported.

Yes, but: Amanda Aguirre, a former Democratic state lawmaker who now runs the Regional Center for Border Health, has defended the program, which she described as a humanitarian effort.

  • The migrants receive food, medical care and other needs while they're en route to the Washington area, and CARECEN works with their families to ensure that they're met when they get off the bus.
  • "If that is not humanitarian support, you tell me, what is it. We're not dumping people anyplace," Aguirre tells Axios.
  • Aguirre described the Florida and Texas programs as "inhumane."

What's next: Regardless of whether Democrat Katie Hobbs or Republican Kari Lake wins the race to succeed Ducey, the busing program seems likely to end.

  • Lake said last month, "I've enjoyed watching these liberal cities, these liberal mayors have to deal with just a small, tiny fraction of what border states deal with. But I'm really not for continuing to traffic and smuggle human beings."
  • Hobbs spokesperson Sarah Robinson tells Axios that she'd halt the practice as well.
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