Washington DC’s mayor has asked for National Guard troops to be activated to help process undocumented migrants arriving on buses in the district.
Muriel Bowser called the arrival of some 4,800 migrants from the southern border a “humanitarian crisis” that had brought her city to a “tipping point”.
The bus trips were organised in Texas and Arizona in protest against the Biden administration’s border policies.
Migration across the US-Mexico border has surged to record levels.
Officials in border states have grown increasingly restive over what they perceive as the federal government’s inability to manage the crisis.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott – among the most vocal critics of President Joe Biden’s border policy – began offering state-funded bus rides to migrants released from federal custody in his state in April.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey followed suit a month later, saying the voluntary bus rides were necessary because of “little action or assistance from the federal government”.
Both Republican officials had lobbied unsuccessfully for the Biden administration to keep in place a Trump-era policy that allowed border patrol to expel almost all undocumented migrants seeking asylum.
The Biden administration attempted to end the so-called Title 42 policy, but has been blocked in court. Texas and Arizona have meanwhile dispatched more than 150 buses filled with migrants to DC’s Union Station, which is at the doorstep of the US Capitol.
Texas’ bussing programme – which the White House has slammed as a “publicity stunt” – has cost taxpayers in the state more than $1,400 per rider, an investigation by the Dallas-based KXAS TV station found.
In letters to the president and his secretary of defence, DC Mayor Bowser, a Democrat, said National Guardsmen must be activated indefinitely to deal with a “crisis that we expect to escalate”.
“The pace of arriving buses and the volume of arrivals have reached tipping points,” she wrote.
“With pledges from Texas and Arizona to continue these abhorrent operations indefinitely, the situation is dire, and we consider this a humanitarian crisis – one that could overwhelm our social support network without immediate and sustained federal intervention.”
Governor Ducey shot back on Twitter: “Mayor Bowser is lamenting 4,000 migrants – Arizona had 43,570 border encounters in June alone.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, said: “If 4000 is a tipping point, what the hell do you call the three & a half million illegal immigrants who’ve crossed our southern border?”
Migrants arriving in DC have so far been heavily reliant on local mutual aid organisations for everything from food and assistance to housing and jobs.
Some do not stay long in the nation’s capital, reconnecting with family or locating their immigration appointments in other parts of the US.
Washington DC is a sanctuary city, one of many Democratic-led jurisdictions around the country that limits its co-operation with federal immigration law enforcement.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams last week partially blamed the bussing programmes for placing a “real burden” on the city’s safety net and shelter system.