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'Playing With Human Lives': Los Angeles Mayor Rips GOP Texas Gov. Over Migrant Stunt

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MISHANDLED MIGRANTS - Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday night announcedthat his state had dropped off its "first" busload of migrants in Los Angeles, the latest move by a right-wing governor to ship vulnerable asylum-seekers to a distant Democratic-led jurisdiction.

"It is abhorrent that an American elected official is using human beings as pawns in his cheap political games," the city's progressive mayor, Karen Bass, said in a statement condemning Abbott.

The arrival of 42 migrants, including eight children, at L.A. Union Station "did not catch us off guard, nor will it intimidate us," said Bass. "Shortly after I took office, I directed city departments to begin planning in the event Los Angeles was on the receiving end of a despicable stunt that Republican governors have grown so fond of."

"Now, it's time to execute our plan," she added. "Our emergency management, police, fire, and other departments were able to find out about the incoming arrival while the bus was on its way and were already mobilized along with nonprofit partners before the bus arrived."

Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights-Los Angeles (CHIRLA), was at Union Station when the bus arrived from McAllen, Texas. He told the Los Angeles Times that the passengers were forced to endure a 23-hour bus ride without food.

"Los Angeles is not a city motivated by hate or fear, and we absolutely will not be swayed or moved by petty politicians playing with human lives."

It remains unclear whether everyone aboard made the trip voluntarily or knew the final destination of the bus. Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, said her team is working to determine whether migrants provided informed consent or were unlawfully detained.

Cabrera said CHIRLA "had been tipped off Tuesday night about the migrants' pending arrival," the Times reported. "He said the travelers originated from Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras, with two of African descent. One of the Guatemalan migrants has a court date scheduled in New York, he added."

"That's where the cruelty of this process is unbounded," Cabrera explained. "That's why Los Angeles made sure that we were coordinated and prepared to deal with the human beings behind this political charade."

The migrants were taken to a welcoming center at a nearby church, where they were able to rest, eat, and speak with attorneys. As Cabrera put it, "We know that they're traumatized and they need a number of services."

Los Angeles Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez (D-1) said that "the church was serving as a triage center, with nonprofit organizations and the Community Investment for Families Department among those on hand," the Times reported. "Hernandez said migrants were getting services, and some were being connected with relatives."

According to the newspaper, "The city's Emergency Operations Center was activated Wednesday afternoon to assist in coordinating city, county, and state partners, along with local community organizations."

Hernandez noted that "months-old babies" were among those put on the bus by Abbott. The people involved "were essentially dehumanized," said Hernandez. "They were used by a weak politician as a political stunt."

Her fellow councilmember, Kevin De León (D-14), also denounced Abbott for engaging in "heartless exploitation." While the move was "not shocking," the city official said in a statement, it reflects "a tremendous lack of leadership."

Abbott has previously come under fire for his interstate migrant busing scheme. Since it was launched in April 2022, more than 21,600 people have been transported from Texas to Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and now Los Angeles.

In a statement, Abbott claimed that "Texas' small border towns remain overwhelmed and overrun... because of President Joe Biden's refusal to secure the border."

Data released earlier this month showed that unauthorized crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border are at their lowest point since the start of the Biden administration.

"We are a city that seeks to treat all people with dignity and compassion."

Since the White House imposed new asylum restrictions that went into effect when Title 42 ended on May 11, the number of people stopped by Border Patrol each day has plummeted from more than 10,000 to roughly 3,000. In addition, the number of people waiting in northern Mexico prior to immigrating to the U.S. appears to be falling.

Undermining Abbott's dubious accusations of inaction at the border, immigrant rights groups have condemned Biden's crackdown on asylum-seekers, saying the president's new ban deepens the bipartisan abandonment of international human rights law set in motion by the Trump administration.

Abbott is not the only far-right governor to dump migrants in Democratic-led jurisdictions in the past year.

Last September, Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis organized flights of nearly 50 South American asylum-seekers from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, prompting a lawsuit and a criminal investigation into whether people were "lured... under false pretenses." The Bexar County Sheriff's Office recently recommended criminal charges over the Martha's Vineyard flights.

After DeSantis flew additional migrants to Sacramento earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) threatened to slap the "small, pathetic man" with kidnapping charges.

Abbott, for his part, vowed Wednesday to continue shipping people across the country, saying that "Los Angeles is a major city that migrants seek to go to, particularly now that its city leaders approved its self-declared sanctuary city status."

In response, Bass said: "Los Angeles is not a city motivated by hate or fear, and we absolutely will not be swayed or moved by petty politicians playing with human lives. We are a city that seeks to treat all people with dignity and compassion."

(Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first published.)

 

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