Over the past five months, hundreds of chartered buses from Texas and Arizona have transported thousands of undocumented migrants to Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago. Republican governors in the border states have dispatched the buses as a ploy to subject Northern Democrats to the chaos and costs associated with the nation’s immigration crisis. With unlawful border crossings hitting an all-time high, Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona claim they are being “overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants” and insist the busing operation is their response to “President Biden’s inaction at our southern border.”
From officials in the destination cities, meanwhile, there has been a torrent of condemnation. New York Mayor Eric Adams blasted the governors as “cowards” for sending away people “who are looking for help.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot denounced Abbott as “racist and xenophobic.” US Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, called the policy “cruel and inhumane.”
All of it has added up to the spectacle of politicians at their worst: While lawmakers in Congress refuse to address the cause of the chaos at the border — the lack of more options to immigrate legally — state and city officials are busy trying to score points at the expense of hapless asylum seekers.
Or so I thought until I read Jasmine Aguilera’s account in Time magazine, which reported on the busing of migrants from the perspective of the migrants themselves.
Far from regarding their state-organized travel as “cruel and inhumane,” Aguilera found, those she talked to considered it a stroke of good fortune. She interviewed 15 migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, and Honduras before they boarded one of the buses in Del Rio, Texas, and after they arrived in Washington two days later. They told her “they were thrilled for the option of free transportation, and were surprised to learn that Abbott’s intentions were less about accommodating them than inconveniencing his political opponents.”
If Texas and Arizona counted on the buses heading north to “sway the federal government to toughen immigration policy, they so far have been unsuccessful,” Aguilera wrote. “But in the process, they’ve provided a service to thousands of migrants seeking homes in the United States.”
She found the same reaction when she spoke with another group of migrants on a bus out of Yuma, Ariz. Among them was a family of five from Peru, who left their homeland in July after the mother, Jennifer, was threatened by violent gang members. They headed to America hoping to connect with relatives in Boston. After their frightening ordeal in Peru, Jennifer told Time, “a safe, free bus that would take her family closer [to] Boston was a ‘blessing.’”
Other journalists have come to similar conclusions. The Washington Post noted that “those who board the buses appear to do so willingly, with no sign of anyone … being forced or tricked,” and reported that “for many of those who have accepted the rides … the buses have turned into a welcomed pipeline.” The Dallas Morning News quoted one thankful migrant who took the bus to Washington. “I consider it true humanitarian aid,” Víctor Rodríguez told a reporter. “[I]t allows migrants who have no money, like me, to arrive or get closer to our destination…. My life starts now.”
The best solution to the illegal immigration crisis is to make legal immigration much easier. But in the interim, the Texas and Arizona governors’ stunt, however cynically intended, turns out to be an excellent idea. Government agencies, working with humanitarian organizations, ought to be encouraged to help migrants move onward from the overstressed border towns. It’s in everyone’s interest to make it easy for newcomers to disperse to communities nationwide — whether to connect with relatives or friends already in the country or to move to cities where the labor market is tight and jobs are plentiful.
More than two centuries of experience have shown that where immigrants put down roots, America thrives. As Rupert Murdoch once said, Silicon Valley is misnamed — “it’s not the silicon” that made it such an economic dynamo, “it’s the immigrants.” Foreigners are far more likely than US natives to start businesses and create jobs, to stabilize declining populations, and revitalize stagnant neighborhoods. The foreign-born come to this country pursuing an American dream. It is in America’s national interest to help them get underway.
Abbott and Ducey may have thought they were pulling a fast one. But they outsmarted themselves. Enabling migrants to reach new destinations as quickly as possible is the best thing we can do for them and for us. Keep the buses rolling and the new Americans coming.