Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for help from the D.C. National Guard to process incoming migrants from Texas and Arizona has been denied. (WI file photo)
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for help from the D.C. National Guard to process incoming migrants from Texas and Arizona has been denied. (WI file photo)

In what statehood proponents have described as a serious problem, the Department of Defense (DOD) recently denied Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for the D.C. National Guard to help mitigate the arrival of asylum-seeking migrants from Texas and Arizona. 

Last month, Bowser requested 150 National Guard members per day and recommended the D.C. Armory as an ideal location for housing and processing. By that time, more than 6,000 migrants had been bused from Texas and Arizona to D.C. since April. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), who initiated the transfer of migrants after the Biden administration lifted a restriction on migrant entry earlier this year, revealed New York City as an additional destination. He said these efforts will help get migrants closer to their families. 

But Bowser said such a course of action doesn’t work for migrants arriving in D.C., many of whom find themselves stranded near Union Station and without resources. 

On Friday, August 5, Bowser revealed her office’s attempt to submit more of a specific request to the DOD. She also expressed her hope that Beltway politics will not further complicate efforts to ensure safe passage for migrants as they make their way from the U.S. border. 

“[W]e want to work with the Department of Defense so they understand our operational needs and political considerations are not part of their decision,” Bowser said. “When D.C.’s mayor says, in the past and future, they need the D.C. National Guard, we need fair consideration.” 

In 2020, D.C. permanently became a sanctuary city with the passage of the Sanctuary Values Act, which restricts cooperation between the D.C. government and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The legislation means police and other agencies cannot share information with ICE and prohibits correction facilities from serving as ICE detention facilities. 

The legislation also amended a loophole that allowed ICE and U.S. Marshals to detain immigrants outside of D.C. Superior Court. 

Over the last few months, faith and community groups, with financial assistance from FEMA, have stepped to the plate to provide food and housing to migrants. However, Bowser remains resolute in acquiring the D.C. National Guard for more of a centralized and long-term response. 

For some, the DOD’s denial brought to mind a similar situation that unfolded on January 6, 2021. 

Unlike her counterparts in U.S. states and territories, Bowser has no control of her jurisdiction’s National Guard. On January 6, she had to submit a request for District national guard troops. As the Pentagon mulled over the request, legions of men and women who’ve come to be known as J6ers, overwhelmed local and U.S. Capitol police forces. 

Last month, the U.S. House passed the District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act, which would cede control of  the D.C. National Guard to the mayor. That legislation, which had been approved in the House for the second time since January 6, 2021, counted as an amendment to the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Amendment Act (NDAA). 

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who co-introduced the amendment with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Md), celebrated the milestone as a step in the right direction for District residents. 

“The D.C. National Guard Home Rule Act simply gives the District’s chief executive the same authority afforded to governors of states and territories over their guards,” Norton, Maloney and Brown said in a statement. “This bill might have ended the insurrection hours earlier on January 6th and would afford D.C. a critical element of home rule as it moves toward statehood. We will fight to include this provision in the final fiscal year 2023 NDAA.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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