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Three Things to Know: Migrant Buses

Since April, Texas Greg Governor Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have sent thousands of migrants from Texas and Arizona to northern, progressive cities such as New York, Washington DC, and Chicago. The crisis on our border is real — but Governors Abbott and Ducy (and, most recently, Florida Governor De Santis) are resorting to political stunts by using real human beings as political pawns. Nearly 10,000 newcomers have been bussed northbound, often using deception as to where the transport was headed. These migrants are fleeing political persecution and violence in their home countries, and they have sought refuge and legal asylum in the United States. They don’t deserve to be treated like this. In this month’s edition, we’d like to shed light on these “bus migrants”.

1. A majority of the recent newcomers are Venezuelans.

The U.S. is witnessing record levels of crossings at the southern border, and a large portion of those arriving now are Venezuelan. Over the past years, Venezuela has experienced one of the world’s worst migrant crises. The country is in an economic meltdown; Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s accumulation of power, his crackdown on dissent, and widespread corruption in recent years has only worsened the situation.

Venezuela currently has the highest inflation rate in the world. Food, medicine, and everyday necessities are impossible to find or afford. Venezuela also has the world’s highest crime rate. All this has left nearly the entire population scrambling to make ends meet and the violence has deeply impacted people across social classes.

In an effort to escape these conditions, many leave Venezuela. Before the pandemic, Venezuelans fled to nearby Latin American countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Many countries in Latin America welcomed Venezuelan migrants. Throughout the region, regularization and documentation processes were adopted. This has changed since Covid.

2. These migrants often face incredibly dangerous journeys to reach the United States — and their journey isn’t over.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many Venezuelans living in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile experienced rapidly worsening economic conditions. As a result, many often decided to make the dangerous trek north to the United States on foot.

Many are determined to make it to the United States and are willing to go through some of the most dangerous terrains in the world. For example, many have to travel through the Darién, a large expanse of dangerous jungle that connects South America’s Colombia to Central America’s Panama. Many migrants, often families with young children and elderly relatives, face long stretches of walking and difficult terrains of mud and mountains. At risk of dehydration and exhaustion, officials have reported multiple deaths along this route.

In addition to the physical challenges of this journey, many of these migrants are vulnerable to crime and violence. Knowing that many people are desperate to make it to the U.S., smugglers and traffickers often take advantage of them. Many are also susceptible to sexual violence and exploitation.

Even when they reach the United States, many face a difficult journey ahead. After crossing the often-dangerous Rio Grande, the governors of Texas and Arizona are now extending their journey through a political stunt. Tens of thousands of migrants are being sent in buses from the border to cities like New York, Chicago, and DC. These overcrowded and crammed bus trips can last up to 40 hours. While on the bus, many people describe only receiving one meal (a singular sandwich and water bottle) the entire trip. Bus drivers often report paying for newcomers’ meals at rest stops.

3. In spite of everything these migrants have faced to seek safety in the United States, they are being used as political pawns.

The willingness to play politics with human suffering is hard to understand. Even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis decided to join in on the political stunts by sending nearly 50 migrants from Texas on two planes to Martha’s Vineyard. The governors claim to be distributing the responsibility for migrants from the border states to northern, Democratic-voting cities.

Despite these governors’ claims that each migrant had boarded buses (or planes) voluntarily, many of those on board describe feeling deceived. They report not being offered options, they were required to sign contracts they didn’t understand, and felt that they should take the free travel rather than risk staying in crowded shelters in Texas or Arizona.

DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser and NY’s Mayor Eric Adams have both declared a public emergency in their cities. Nonprofit organizations and volunteer organizations are overwhelmed as they welcome new arrivals and provide food and shelter. Many are struggling to either make arrangements for further travel or help migrants settle into these new cities.

Adding to the chaos, just weeks before the midterm elections, President Joe Biden recently ruled that only 24,000 will be eligible for a new humanitarian parole. Until recently, Venezuelans entering the United States, including those without authorization, were allowed Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to the extreme political and economic situation in Venezuela. Now, to apply, migrants must be able to prove that there is someone in the United States who is able to sponsor them for two years. Biden’s recent ruling also expands on Title 42, the Trump-era policy that allows the government to expel migrants for the sake of public health. With this new agreement, any Venezuelan migrant who tries to cross the border illegally can be sent back to Mexico.

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