When the first bus carrying illegal migrants from Texas arrived in the District of Columbia on April 13, an official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said those who had no family to pick them up would be “put on a train” to Florida, according to a newly surfaced email.
The Oversight Project, an investigative arm of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, obtained the email from the D.C. government via a Freedom of Information Act request regarding its response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s initiative to bus illegal immigrants apprehended at the nation’s southern border to the nation’s capital.
Abbott launched the border bus mission in April to give the Washington community a taste of what has been experienced by Texas border towns as a result of the Biden administration’s border policy. He pledged to send cooperating migrants to the U.S. Capitol, where “the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border.”
In the email dated April 13, a FEMA official told a group of Washington health officials that Abbott “made good on his promise” to drop migrants off on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.
The FEMA official appears to be disappointed that the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which was tasked to arrange the buses, didn’t keep its Washington counterpart informed of the buses’ whereabouts.
“DC was in contact with Texas EM [Emergency Management] and they said they would alert DC when a bus was leaving and provide a manifest. They did not do that,” the official writes.
The official goes on to describe a plan to rely on Catholic Charities of Arlington, Virginia, for support, although the religious charity network indicated that they didn’t have “a huge bandwidth” if buses kept coming from Texas. The official also said that FEMA has held meetings with Washington officials, Customs and Border Protection, non-governmental organizations from the border towns, and border town officials for advice on how to handle the situation.
“For this first drop, some were picked up by family members and the rest will be put on a train to Miami,” the email states.
The message was relayed by Patrick Ashley, senior deputy director of the D.C. Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration, and was introduced as “a quick update from FEMA.”
In a statement to The Epoch Times, FEMA press secretary Jeremy Edwards confirmed that the message was part of a “situation update” on April 13, but shouldn’t be interpreted as official FEMA’s present or past policy.
“The email is reiterating what is happening on the ground at that snap-shot in time,” Edwards said. “The email does not state FEMA policy now or then. The email does not in any way suggest that FEMA was putting people on trains to Miami, which was not the case then, nor has it ever been the case.”
Some illegal immigrants who voluntarily accepted the one-way bus ticket to Washington told news outlets they wouldn’t be staying there. A young man from Venezuela, who was among the very first batch of arrivals, told Newsmax that his final destination was Miami. The Daily Beast spoke to the same group of people and reported that they were planning to travel either to New York or Miami, with the help of Catholic Charities.
When asked about their travel plans, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned the illegal immigrants not to try to come to the Sunshine State, where they wouldn’t be welcomed.
“To those who have entered the country illegally, fair warning: Do not come to Florida. Life will not be easy for you, because we are obligated to uphold the immigration laws of this country, even if our federal government and other states won’t,” the Republican governor’s office told Fox News in a statement.
“Florida is not a sanctuary state, and our social programs are designed to serve the citizens of our state. The governor will protect the sovereignty of the state of Florida.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s office didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on whether it was aware of any illegal immigrants being transported to the city.
The Mayor’s Response
Meanwhile, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser continued to condemn Abbott for “tricking” people into accepting his bus ride offer.
Appearing July 17 on CBS News, Bowser said her administration has called on the federal government “to work across state lines to prevent people from really being tricked into getting on buses.”
“We think they’re largely asylum-seekers who are going to final destinations that are not Washington, D.C.,” the mayor said.
“I worked with the White House to make sure that FEMA provided a grant to a local organization that is providing services to folks. But I fear that they’re being tricked into nationwide bus trips when their final destinations are places all over the United States of America.”