Texas sends more buses with migrants to Washington, D.C., the day before Title 42 is set to end at the border

Activists line up as two buses of migrants from Texas arrive in Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2022. This week, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered two more buses to Washington as the Biden administration prepares to end Title 42, the emergency health order that allows U.S. officials to quickly expel migrants from the country. (Shuran Huang For The Texas Tribune, Shuran Huang For The Texas Tribune)

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent two buses carrying migrants to Washington, D.C., as the end of Title 42 looms at the U.S.-Mexico border.

[Here’s what you need to know about Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that quickly sends migrants to Mexico]

The move comes as Texas border cities have seen an influx of migrants in recent weeks in anticipation of the pandemic-era public health order Title 42 lifting late Thursday night. Abbott’s office confirmed that one bus dropped off about 50 migrants at Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence Wednesday night; another bus, carrying more than 30 migrants, arrived at Harris’ residence Thursday morning.

“Until President Biden steps up and does his job, Texas will continue busing migrants to sanctuary cities to provide relief to our overwhelmed border towns,” said Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesperson for Abbott.

Abbott’s office launched the controversial migrant busing program last April and has since sent more than 17,500 migrants to the nation’s capital, New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia. Migrants are not forced to get on the buses but are given the option by officials.

While Abbott told Fox News on Wednesday that he’s providing the bus trips because border towns don’t have the capacity to handle the incoming migrants, he’s also faced criticism that the busing is a political stunt aimed at antagonizing the Biden administration.

“[Harris is] the border czar, and we felt that if she won’t come down to see the border, if President Biden will not come down and see the border, we will make sure they see it firsthand,” Abbott said in September.

During a press briefing Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas responded to a question about migrants being bused to Washington, D.C., saying, “It is both a sad and tragic day when a government official uses migrants as a pawn for political purposes.”

The busing program was dormant for several months before Texas began busing migrants out of the state again on May 1.

The most recent bus trips arrived on the eve of a major policy change at the U.S.-Mexico border: the end of Title 42. The public health order was invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed U.S. officials to quickly expel migrants from the U.S. without allowing them to request asylum.

Since then, more than 2.7 million migrants have since been expelled under Title 42.

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