(CNN) — Genesis Figueroa and her husband traveled from Venezuela to the U.S. border for more than a month, which was briefly cut short when she was hospitalized with pneumonia in Guatemala.
Less than a week after taking refuge in Eagle Pass, Texas, after crossing the Rio Grande, they began another journey Thursday morning: this time to Washington, D.C., by bus.
Figueroa and her husband were among thousands of immigrants who were bussed from the Lone Star State to Washington and New York City this year at the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in an effort to highlight their criticism of the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
“Before we started moving immigrants to New York, Texas and Arizona were the only ones bearing the brunt of all the confusion and complications,” the governor said. In a statement this week. “Now the rest of America can understand exactly what’s going on.”
Abbott said Friday that the state has bused more than 7,000 immigrants to Washington since April and more than 900 to New York City since Aug. 5.
Many, like Figueroa, are glad to leave Texas. Buses stop in several towns en route to the northeast, allowing migrants to disembark to meet friends and family elsewhere. In Washington, Figueroa and her husband would meet with their friends.
But New York officials have criticized travel conditions, saying migrants on those buses are hungry, thirsty and “frequently ill.”
“We’ve been on the road for a long time and we don’t care about two or three more days,” Figueroa, 28, told CNN in Spanish.
Neither did cousins Luis Pulido and Aynor Garrido, who traveled from Venezuela to Texas for six weeks. Pulido’s younger brother did not come to America with them. He disappeared as the group crossed the Rio Grande. Officials at the shelter in Texas told Pulido they had found his brother’s body; He is overwhelmed.
But the relatives are determined to come this far and continue their plans. They would board a bus to Washington, D.C., before getting off at their destination in Kentucky, where their relatives would be waiting to pick them up.
“They want to get on the buses,” said Valeria Wheeler, executive director of Mission: Border Hope, a nonprofit organization serving the border community in Eagle Pass. “No one is forced.”
Groups go partly because they want to, Wheeler added, and partly because it’s a free ride to New York or Washington.
Receiving cities are struggling to accommodate the increase in immigrants and their needs. New York City officials last week said intake centers were already overcrowded and planned to open more emergency housing this month, but faced problems with a lack of coordination from the state of Texas.
“Essentially, they have weaponized this situation,” Manuel Castro, the mayor’s commissioner of immigrant affairs, said at a recent City Council hearing. “We learned that the bus company they work for has a confidentiality agreement that does not allow them to communicate with New York City.” Abbott’s office did not respond to earlier CNN questions about confidential contracts for bus companies.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has accused Abbott of forcing immigrants onto buses, a charge the governor has denied.
Last week, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, Updated an application The National Guard must facilitate the continued arrival of immigrants after a previous request has been rejected. His office said the city had reached a “tipping point”.
The mayor’s office called for an “appropriate federal location” to become a processing center for immigrants, saying a regional reception center in Maryland is full. CNN previously reported.
In Eagle Pass, more than 40 people, including men, women and children, boarded a bus to Washington Thursday morning with cousins Pulido and Garrido and Figueroa and her husband.
Once she gets there, Figueroa told CNN she hopes to be able to cook, clean or work in an office so she can support her family at home.
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