Texas confirms bus of asylum-seekers coming to Philly: What we know

Local officials and community organizations are ready to welcome the newcomers.

Protesters in Old City in 2017 march against building a border 'wall'

Protesters in Old City in 2017 march against building a border 'wall'

Angela Gervasi / Billy Penn
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A bus of about 28 people seeking asylum in the U.S. arrived in Philadelphia Wednesday morning.

They were met by city workers and volunteers, who offed health screenings, shelter, food and water, legal and social services, and translation, according to city officials.

“As a proud welcoming city, Philadelphia will greet our newly arrived neighbors with dignity and respect,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

The adults and children hailed from Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic, according to city officials, and had all been screened by Customs and Border Patrol. Only two families — about five people overall — were expected to stay in Philly. The others were expected to move on to other destinations overnight.

Local nonprofits Nationalities Services Center and HIAS Pennsylvania were actively working to help the newcomers, while a dozen other immigrant services orgs were also coordinating.

Monetary donations to help are being accepted at the city-run Philadelphia Welcoming Fund.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the stunt on Tuesday, confirming what Philly officials had heard over the weekend. The effort is part of an ongoing series of unannounced and uncoordinated busings his administration started in April.

“Philadelphia will now be a drop-off location,” Abbott’s statement said. Washington D.C. had previously been the primary destination, though buses have also been sent to New York City. and Chicago.

Abbott included the initiative as part of his state’s plan to combat what he calls “open border policies,” and has spent millions of dollars in emergency management funds on the program.

He’s primarily targeting so-called “sanctuary cities.” Though Philly officials don’t use that term — they prefer “welcoming city” — municipal immigration policy has aligned with the concept since the early 2010s.

Arrests of people trying to cross into the U.S. via land are at an all-time high, according to U.S. Border Patrol data. In the last fiscal year there were over 2 million arrests at the country’s southwestern border, though some people have been arrested more than once for repeat attempts — at least 27%, according to CBP estimates.

Here’s what we know about the bus sent to Philly.

The city has been ready to welcome newcomers

Philadelphia officials have been planning for this for months, spokesperson Kevin Lessard made clear.

“Since the summer, the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Office of Emergency Management have been preparing for the potential arrival of unplanned migrants,” Lessard said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

The two offices have been meeting with “nearly 15” local organizations since August to plan a response that will include “immediate reception and shelter space, emergency health screening, food, water, and more,” per Lessard.

Bus travel started in Southwest Texas

The bus started its journey to Philadelphia in Del Rio.

A city on the Texas’ southwest border, Del Rio has been a constant site of crossings. In the last few months, the Del Rio Sector has seen increased crossings compared to other Texas sectors, per Customs and Border Patrol.

Nearly 13,000 people sent out this way

Reports that people are arriving from Texas have not always borne themselves out. In late September, news outlets in Texas and Delaware reported asylum seekers from the San Antonio area would be flown into Georgetown, Delaware, with a layover in Florida.

The flight didn’t happen as planned. Delaware officials awaited asylum seekers, but the flight was rerouted to New Jersey and didn’t have any migrants on board upon arrival.

That said, Texas has generally followed through on their busing initiative. The state claims to have bused nearly 13,000 people overall — in September the state noted over 7,900 have been sent to DC; 2,200 to NYC; and 300 to Chicago.

There could be more to follow

The bus could be the first in a series, as the statement said it represents “the departure of the first group of migrants” to Philadelphia. At one point, NYC was seeing 10 buses arriving daily.

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