Reporters waited for hours outside of a small Delaware airport this week, waiting on a plane full of migrants to arrive that never came. One state away, in Maryland, with much less media attention, the work to provide stability and shelter for migrants being sent from Southern states continued.
About 1,000 migrants have come through a Montgomery County facility from June 22 until last week, said Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, a humanitarian nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
These migrants, being sent by bus to D.C.’s Union Station largely from Arizona and Texas, are staying for a couple nights at SAMU’s Montgomery County facility before being relocated to their destination, which Laborde said, is in many cases New York City.
Migrants in the United States to seek asylum
State Attorney General Brian Frosh signed onto to a brief Tuesday with 15 other states, including Delaware, in support of federal guidance to support prioritizing threats to public safety in immigration enforcement efforts.
“This means priority for removal can be targeted toward noncitizens who pose the greatest threat to public safety,” said Frosh, a Democrat, in a release. The action comes as Republican governors in Texas, Florida and Arizona have transported migrants across the country to send a political message. The office of Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
Gary Sampliner, a retired federal attorney, emphasized the legal basis for the migrants’ stay in the country.
“Either 100 percent or very close to 100 percent (are) asylum seekers,” said Sampliner, a board member of Jews and Muslims and Allies Acting Together (JAMAAT), a D.C.-area social action organization. “Under our law, they’re here, legally, to seek asylum.”
Local organizations providing assistance
Sister Sharlet Wagner, a Catholic nun who has been at Union Station this year after the first buses came in April, says the majority of those arriving are originally from Venezuela, but there individuals from Cuba, Colombia, and Brazil too.
“Eighty-five percent of those who arrive at Union Station move on; they’re really not coming here,” said Wagner. “About 15% decide to stay here.”
She said buses have come from Texas to Union Station just about every day, and from Arizona, two or three times a week, ranging anywhere from about a dozen to 40 passengers.
“As to why they’re coming to Maryland, honestly, for the most part, it’s because that’s where the bus is taking them,” said Wagner, the executive director of Newcomer Network of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington.
After a short stay at the SAMU facility in Montgomery County, the individuals are placed in hotel space for about a month in the county if they have nowhere else to go, she said. At the hotel, Catholic Charities and other organizations provide case management services, trying to find affordable housing, enroll the children in school, and integrate the migrants into their new community.
“I would hope that the decisionmakers would keep in mind that these are vulnerable human beings and treat them in the way that they would want to be treated or they would want their loved ones to be treated if they found themselves in a similar situation,” Wagner said.
Dwight A. Weingarten is an investigative reporter, covering the Maryland State House and state issues. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DwightWeingart2.