WASHINGTON — Editor's Note: The video above is from July 15
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments approved a resolution on Friday stressing the need for more federal assistance as busloads of asylum-seekers challenge the area's humanitarian support systems.
D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando and Farifax County Vice-chairwoman Penelope Gross unanimously voted to support D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's proposal in requesting more federal funds from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that the agency can better support local food and shelter programs.
"What we don't have here is any sort of real federal government response, Nadeau said. "I think it's something that we can take up in our resolution, but in the absence of that, all of us are left being the first responders: our governments, our constituents, our non-profit leaders."
Representatives from nonprofits currently assisting the migrants, including SAMU First Response and Sanctuary DMV, also spoke at the meeting, explaining to the council the strains they have experienced over the last several weeks.
One of the meeting's most discussed topics was the need for a government-designated respite center closer to Union Station where the migrants are being dropped off. While some D.C. faith groups and churches are helping process the migrants, many do not operate late hours, meaning the migrants are transported to Montgomery County's respite center, which Jawando said is expensive and overwhelming the SAMU-run site.
"One of the reasons we're here today is to talk about the unsustainability of that," Jawando said. "There are gaps in the system...people are going to show up, but it is inhumanely impossible unless you have a robust, coordinated system to receive everybody, and that is already having impacts on other parts of the region as well."
While no concrete plans were set in stone, the council voted to continue discussing plans in upcoming meetings.
The strain on both government and non-governmental humanitarian assistance programs began culminating several weeks ago when President Joe Biden rescinded Title 42, a public health measure enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic that allows the government to immediately expel migrants where communicable disease is present.
In retaliation, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued orders to have asylum-seekers crossing the border be bussed to D.C. rather than stay within their states.
Leaders and advocates have called the influx of migrants into the city "chaos" with nonprofit groups struggling to find home and job accommodations for asylum-seekers electing to stay within the DMV while their cases are reviewed.