PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — A second bus full of 46 people legally seeking asylum in the US arrived in Philadelphia Monday morning at 30th Street Station.
City leaders and local organizations lined up ready to give them a joyful welcome, a warm jacket and a cozy blanket.
One of those on the bus, Kevin Aborlada, said it was a two-month trip from Ecuador.
Aborlada said they went through the forest and it was very tough. They saw a lot of people dying and saw others who had to stop along the way.
He said it was difficult psychologically for him and his wife since they were carrying their 3-year-old child.
Aborlada also said once they got to the US, the treatment was much better. His daughter Sophia was very happy to be here saying she feels good, but cold.
Local non-profit organizations like Casa De Venezuela and Juntos helped organize resources for about 30 families who plan to seek temporary shelter in North Philadelphia.
“So far it’s been very smooth. People are thankful. Get a little coffee a snack and go to the shelter,” said Fernando Torres with Casa de Venezuela.
“We did have a bigger group this time but because of the momentum that we build. I’m confident we’ll be able to meet everyone’s needs: medical care, housing, transportation even finding local employment,” said Erika Guadalupe Nunez, the executive director of Juntos.
Action News is told 30 people boarded another bus to a welcoming facility on E. Luzerne Street in North Philadelphia and about 12 others stayed at 30th Street Station to be picked up by family and head to their final destination.
The city said Texas officials have not coordinated with them “despite a direct request from Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management to do so.”
They said they do not know of other buses being planned.
Last Wednesday, a bus carrying 28 asylum seekers was sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott from Del Rio to Philadelphia.
Abbott, a Republican, announced last week the city would be added to the list of destinations for migrants that Texas has been transporting by the thousands from the US-Mexico border to Democrat-led cities. The news came a week after Abbott easily won reelection.
Texas has put more than 300 busloads of migrants on the road since April, sometimes five in a day, on unannounced journeys to cities including New York, Chicago and Washington, DC The trips have cost Texas about $26 million, according to Nim Kidd, chief of Texas Department of Emergency Management.
New York Mayor Eric Adams has accused Abbott’s office of being unwilling to coordinate to help them plan for the arrivals. Kidd, whose agency is overseeing the departures, said non-governmental organizations on the ground are in touch with colleagues elsewhere.
“We have full confidence that the NGOs that we are working with are communicating with the NGOs in the places these buses are being delivered to,” Kidd told lawmakers last week.
US officials stopped more than 2 million illegal border crossings in the last fiscal year, a record high that reflects the deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, migrants at the US border were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the year before.
Abbott has sent the buses to Democratic-led cities to point out what he calls the inaction of the Biden administration to address the migrant surge. In all, he’s sent more than 13,000 migrants out of state since April.
Critics condemned the practice as a political stunt, but voters rewarded Abbott with a record-tying third term as Texas governor in his race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Abbott made a series of hardline immigration measures the centerpiece of his campaign.
Nearly 6 in 10 Texas voters favored Abbott’s decision to send migrants to northern cities, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of almost 3,400 voters in the state.
In a statement last week, Abbott’s office said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney “has long-celebrated and fought for sanctuary city status, making the city an ideal addition to Texas’ list of drop-off locations.”
Kenney, a Democrat, was typically blunt in response.
“It is sad and outrageous that Gov. Abbott and his administration continue to implement their cruel and racist policies, using immigrant families, including children, as pawns to shamelessly push their warped political agenda,” he said at a news conference last Wednesday.
Since the spring, Arizona has sent 70 buses carrying more than 2,500 migrants to the nation’s capital, the office of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said, citing statistics through mid-November. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican, has flown migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a resort island in Massachusetts.
Philadelphia had been planning for such a day for several months, working with more than a dozen local organizations to provide migrants with shelter space, emergency health screening, food, water, language interpretation and more. The city has also welcomed waves of Ukrainians, Afghans and others in recent years.
The people arriving from Texas are all in the country legally while they seek asylum, Kenney said.
“It is our duty to welcome and support these folks as they face some of the most trying times of their lives,” Kenney said. “At its core, this is a humanitarian crisis, that started with instability and violence in South and Central America and is being accelerated by political dynamics in our own country.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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