'Cruel, Racist Policies': Mayor Criticizes Texas Governor Sending Asylum Seekers to Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney joined other city officials to update the public after the arrival of asylum seekers from Texas on Wednesday, November 16, as seen in live-streamed footage.

Texas Gov Greg Abbott announced that the group of migrants were being sent from the border state to Pennsylvania as a part of “Texas’ busing strategy” which he said was a response to “President Biden’s open border policies overwhelming border communities,” according to a press release on Tuesday.

Video live-streamed by the City of Philadelphia Government on Wednesday shows Mayor Kenney addressing the asylum seekers’ arrival in Philadelphia.

“As a proud welcoming city, Philadelphia will greet our newly arrived neighbors with dignity and respect,” the mayor said. Kenney said he learned of the migrants’ arrival when the public did, through the press release from Gov Abbott’s office.

Kenney criticized Abbott’s approach, saying, “It is sad and outrageous that Governor Abbott and his administration continue to implement their cruel and racist policies using immigrant families including children as pawns to push their warped political agenda.”

Texas previously transported migrants from the state to other cities, including Washington and New York City.

Abbott was not alone in his relocation strategy, as Florida Gov Ron DeSantis said that his state would “facilitate the transport of illegal immigrants to sanctuary jurisdictions” after migrants arrived in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on a chartered flight in September. Credit: City of Philadelphia Government via Storyful

Video transcript

JIM KENNEY: Say again that Philadelphia is a proud, welcoming city. Immigrants across time and generations have powered our city, driving Philadelphia forward economically, socially, and culturally. As you're now all aware, earlier this morning, Philadelphia received its first bus of asylum-seekers from Texas, and we were prepared long before its arrival.

For those arriving to Philadelphia today, please know you are welcomed here. Since the summer, our city's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Office of Emergency Management have been gearing up for the potential arrival of asylum-seekers via unplanned and uncoordinated bus routes from Southern states, as we have seen in cities like New York and Washington, DC. Several city agencies have been meeting and coordinating regularly with nearly 15 community-based organizations and partners to plan the local response, preparations for immediate reception and shelter space, emergency health screening, food and water, language interpretation, and more.

For context, as we previously shared, it was relayed to us last week that a bus of roughly 30 asylum-seekers was expected to travel here from Del Rio, Texas. This information was confirmed late yesterday, without coordination or warning, by Texas Governor Greg Abbott's office through a press release. It's not just unproductive and disappointing, but downright irresponsible and callous to do this unannounced and without coordination, showing blatant disregard for the sanctity of human lives.

As a proud, welcoming city, we choose to take the right path and uphold our American values. The city and volunteers greeted our newly arrived neighbors this morning with dignity and respect. And I'm incredibly proud of the agencies that have stepped up to ensure that these individuals and families have the resources they need after another long journey.

While working through some of the logistics, today's arrival of the bus went-- of the bus went by in very largely smooth, very-- in large, very smoothly. That's a testament to the planning and preparations of the Office of Emergency Management, the Office of Immigrant Affairs, city mass care partners, immigrant leaders, and immigrants serving nonprofits have done to work together to respond during this transition period. These agencies and our partners on the ground stand ready to welcome, assist, and provide support to these new arrivals.

I've said many times before, our city's diversity is one of our greatest assets, and immigrants are major contributors. Philadelphians recognize this as a strength. That is why countless residents and community partners have come forward generously and compassionately to offer a helping hand as soon as we were alerted to a possible bus arriving in Philadelphia. I've seen it time and time again, and I saw it this morning at the welcoming facility. It is possible for government and local communities to work together to strengthen systems of support for newcomers, and that has always been this administration's vision and commitment.

It is sad and outrageous that Governor 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. We aren't going to play into sensationalism. We will remain focused, as ever, on welcoming and supporting anyone who wants to visit or live in our great city, and we thank the partners in the media who have shown restraint and respect for the privacy of the travelers, especially the kids. Those who arrive today are private individuals simply seeking safety and a place where they can build a future. Let's remember that and welcome them with grace and respect.

I want to remind everyone that all of these folks who arrived in Philadelphia today have legal means to be in the United States. Most are expected to continue traveling to meet family members elsewhere in the country. And many, if not all, are seeking asylum, and have demonstrated that they face real dangers of being or have been harmed in their homeland because of their race, religion, or their politics. This is a human right protected under our laws.

Our American values prove that it is our duty to welcome and support these folks as they face some of the most trying times of their lives. 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. But no matter where someone is from or how they got here, our communities work best when people feel welcomed and are provided the support they need and deserve to fully participate in our communities.