(NewsNation) — Busloads of migrants are traveling from the southern border to northern sanctuary cities as Republican governors protest Democratic President Joe Biden’s immigration policy.
The migrants being bused are asylum seekers who are now permitted to stay in the United States by U.S. Customs and Border Protection until their petitions to stay in the country go through the system. The migrants have escalated a gubernatorial feud and brought a humanitarian crisis across the country.
The busing crisis began in spring, when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C. and New York City, in response to Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers.
The conditions and process surrounding Abbott’s busing of migrants have been under scrutiny by mayors in the sanctuary cities where they are arriving.
NewsNation’s Border Report team is chronicling the journey of one of those buses headed from the southern border to the nation’s capital. They started following a bus from Del Rio, Texas to see the operation firsthand. They began their journey around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and were near Little Rock, Arkansas as of 8 a.m. ET, Friday. NewsNation’s Ali Bradley reported that the bus had stopped four times in the 16 hours it has been on the road.
The buses are free and voluntary for any migrant wanting to head to one of the locations — the bus’s destination depends on where the majority of migrants are going, not the other way around.
Each migrant wears a wristband with a barcode on it, that when scanned shows their release paperwork from U.S. Border Patrol and also their consent form.
Migrants on board are given water and meals ready to eat packages filled with things like lentil stew, shortbread cookies, crackers and water.
The buses stop several times and a driver swap is expected around the Nashville area. There are two drivers on the bus.
Migrants are able to get off the bus at any stop. NewsNation’s border team talked Josmar Alvardo from Venezuela, who decided to hop off the bus just outside Nashville, Tennessee.
“It’s been a month and one day since I left home and I just want to be with my family as soon as possible,” he said.
Alvarado says he’s been politically targeted in his home country for not supporting the Venezuelan regime so he is seeking asylum. He’s been permitted to stay in the U.S. as his case processes and is trying to get to his family in New Jersey.
But even though he and the other migrants signed up to travel all the way to Washington, DC, none of them are required to stay on the bus. They’re free to get off anytime, anywhere.
Alvardo was able to find the means to book a flight to New Jersey and figured he may as well fly out of Tennessee.
“They told me I could keep on going on the bus until my family could buy a flight and once that happened I could just jump out of the bus,” he said.
NewcNation is told while most migrants do make it all the way to the final destination, some will typically get off the buses beforehand if it better suits their travel plans.
“First I’m going together to be with my family here where I’m not going to be chased and persecuted,” Alvardo said. “I believe this is a good place to start anew and contribute to help change Venezuela.”
There are two drivers and a security guard on board these buses. The coach bus is equipped with a bathroom, air conditioning and TVs — playing movies to keep the children entertained during the long trip.
NewsNation’s Ali Bradley spoke with a migrant who said he felt like he didn’t have a chance at a better life in Venezuela so he came to the United States.
Texas has spent more than $12 million sending busloads of migrants to East Coast cities, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Karl Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, is now offering grants for organizations to help support the migrants bused from Texas and Arizona. On Thursday, he announced six nonprofit groups will receive a total of $150,000.
The help comes as Abbott has warned that he plans to send even more buses to sanctuary cities. So far, they’ve sent more than 9,000 migrants on more than 200 buses to Washington, D.C, New York City, and, most recently Chicago — all of which have Democratic mayors.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office confirmed this week that 75 immigrants arrived at the city’s Union Station on buses from Texas sent by Abbott.
Abbott confirmed in a statement that the “first group” had been bused to Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.
This comes as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents are arresting a record number of migrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. U.S. authorities stopped migrants 1.43 million times at the Mexican border from January through July, up 28% from the same period last year, Customs and Border Protection said.
This story will be updated as the trip continues.