A bus carrying 28 migrants arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday from Texas, including a sick 10-year-old girl, with many saying they would travel to other states, officials said.
The migrants, which the city described as asylum seekers, traveled by bus from Del Rio, Texas, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Many are from Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic and were screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Five people making up two families said they planned to stay in the city while the rest stated their intention to travel to neighboring states, officials said.
“I’m very pleased with the high level of coordination occurring to best welcome individuals seeking asylum to Philadelphia, where they are and will always be welcomed,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. “We are proud to protect the rights and dignity of our newly arrived neighbors. Today, months of planning with local partners paid off and we have been able to successfully welcome, assist, and provide support to families hoping to build a new life.”
The migrants were brought from Texas as part of a large-scale operation launched months ago by Gov. Greg Abbott. Texas has bused thousands of migrants to sanctuary cities – Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C. – in an effort to bring attention to the crisis at the southern border, where cities are being overwhelmed by a record number of illegal immigrants, officials said.
The migrants brought to Philadelphia were the first group bused to the city from Texas. Upon arrival, they were greeted by several agencies and nonprofit groups as well as local hospitals that were providing health screenings, shelter space, food and water as well as legal and social services, authorities said.
A 10-year-old girl suffering from dehydration and a high fever was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia have launched the Philadelphia Welcoming Fund so residents can donate to local efforts to help the migrants.
Philadelphia officials have heavily criticized Abbott for sending the migrants to their city, particularly without notice. On Tuesday, Kenney accused Abbott of using them as pawns to push a political agenda.
That same day, Abbott stated his plan to escalate his state’s response to record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants and crime on the border. In a letter to President Biden, Abbott said he has ordered the building of a border wall in multiple counties, the deployment of gun boats, the designation of Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations and the deployment of the Texas National Guard to repel and turn back illegal immigrants trying to cross the border illegally, among other measures.
Abbott said Texas has been forced to secure the border on its own amid a wave of human trafficking arrests and fentanyl smuggling into the United States.
“These efforts have been required of Texas because President Biden has abandoned his responsibility to enforce immigration laws, and Congress has refused to hold the President accountable and has abandoned its own responsibility to use the immigration power given to it,” he wrote in his letter to the White House.