Three buses of recent migrant families arrived from Texas near the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in record-setting cold on Christmas Eve.
Texas authorities have not confirmed their involvement, but the bus drop-offs are in line with previous actions by border-state governors calling attention to the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
The buses that arrived late Saturday outside the vice president’s residence were carrying around 110 to 130 people, according to Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, a relief agency working with the city of Washington to serve thousands of migrants who have been dropped off in recent months.
Local organizers had expected the buses to arrive Sunday but found out Saturday that the group would get to Washington early, Laborde said. The people on board included young children.
Some were wearing T-shirts despite temperatures hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius). It was the coldest Christmas Eve on record for Washington, according to the Washington Post.
Laborde said employees had blankets ready for the people who arrived on Christmas Eve and moved them quickly onto waiting buses for a ride to an area church. A local restaurant chain donated dinner and breakfast.
Most of the arrivals were headed to other destinations and expected to remain in Washington only briefly.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment Sunday morning. His office said last week that Texas has given bus rides to more than 15,000 people since April to Washington, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
The White House condemned the move by Abbott, noting the drop-off occurred as much of the country was experiencing a deadly winter storm.
“Governor Abbott abandoned children on the side of the road in below freezing temperatures on Christmas Eve without coordinating with any federal or local authorities. This was a cruel, dangerous, and shameful stunt,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said in a statement.
Hasan said the Biden administration is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform and border security proposed by President Biden, but added, “these political games accomplish nothing and only put lives in danger.”
Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans, are strong critics of Mr. Biden on his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people are trying to cross daily, many to seek asylum. Officials on both sides of the border are seeking emergency help in setting up shelters and services for migrants, some of whom are sleeping on streets.
Republicans argue Biden and Harris, designated the administration’s point person on the root causes of migration, have relaxed restrictions that induced many people to leave their countries of origin. Biden has ended some policies but kept others enacted by former President Donald Trump, whose administration also grappled with spikes in border crossings and at one point separated immigrant families and children as a deterrence initiative.
The Biden administration is also grappling with how to respond to the spike in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, overwhelming local resources and shelters. In El Paso, Texas, where its mayor declared a state of emergency, hundreds of migrants have been forced to sleep on city streets amid freezing temperatures. In fiscal year 2022, federal border authorities stopped migrants over 2.3 million times, a record high.