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Arizona follows Texas, starts busing migrants to D.C.

Migrants held Red Cross blankets after arriving at Union Station near the U.S. Capitol from Texas on buses April 27. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has now followed fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas in busing migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to Washington, D.C.  

Following Texas’ example, Arizona has started busing migrants from the border with Mexico to Washington, D.C., despite the fact the federal government already pays to transport them.

The first bus arrived Wednesday in the nation’s capital after leaving Yuma on Monday, said Gov. Doug Ducey’s press aide, C.J. Karamargin. He said 20 people, all who volunteered, were on the bus. The migrants were from as far away as Uzbekistan, he said. None was from Mexico.

He did not know how much the program will cost, saying it will depend on how many more migrants seek to take advantage of future transportation. But whatever the bill, Karamargin said it is worth it.

“It pales in comparison to the stress on local resources,’’ he said, adding that Ducey intends to send the final bill for the costs to Washington.

When asked why spend state money now for something the federal government is already paying for, Karamargin said, “Our communities are strapped.”

The federal government allotted $150 million in the spending bill passed in March to fund nonprofits who serve migrants entering the country. Part of what those nonprofits do with those federal dollars is arrange transportation for the migrants to get to their sponsors in the United States.

Nonetheless, the state is paying to transport the migrants and for other border security efforts through the Border Security Fund, established in 2021 in partnership with the Arizona Legislature, Ducey’s office said in a news release Wednesday.

Pima County, which coordinates funding for a local nonprofit that provides migrant services, was not contacted by the state about the busing decision, county officials said. In March, the county received the first installment of $2.1 million from the latest federal spending bill. The county has received more than $10 million since April 2021, which has covered the services to asylum seekers.

There are plans for future buses, at least out of Yuma. There are no immediate plans to have similar trips originating from Cochise or Santa Cruz counties. “Many of the asylum seekers are coming in through Yuma,’’ Karamargin said.

Arizona could send two or three buses a week that can transport as many as 40 asylum-seekers each, and the cost will ultimately depend on how many people volunteer to go.

The move comes as Ducey’s fellow Republican governor, Greg Abbott of Texas, said his state has sent at least 10 busloads of migrants to D.C.. Both governors have repeatedly criticized the Biden administration’s border policies.

Ducey made his decision because of the impact migrants are having in Arizona, Karamargin said.

“They are taxing the resources, stretching the resources of nongovermental organizations, community-based organizations,’’ he said. “And this situation will only get worse if Title 42 is lifted. … We decided to step up and help alleviate the burden on our NGOs and get these folks closer to where they ultimately want to be.”

Title 42 is the public health policy put in place because of the pandemic that quickly expels migrants from the country without entering them into the U.S. immigration process. It is set to end May 23, and some speculate the number of migrants coming across the southern border could increase.

The actual arrangements, while paid for by the state, are being arranged by AMI Healthcare. It will provide transportation, staffing and meals on the way to Washington.

Karamargin stressed that no one is being forced to do anything and that they are free to get off the bus at any point on the route.

In Washington, he said, they will be met by other nongovernmental organizations “that can help them get to their ultimate destinations.’’

The 20 migrants who went on Monday’s bus were from Angola, Columbia, Haiti, Peru, Venezuela and Uzbekistan and are headed to the states of Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Maine.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

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For Star subscribers: The Governor's Office says it hasn't yet calculated how much Arizona has spent on the busing program so far. The state is busing migrants who volunteer for the trip despite the fact the federal government already pays to transport them. 

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