WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 15: Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (R) and Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III speak at a press conference on the recent shootings of homeless individuals in Washington, DC and New York City on March 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. Bowser announced an arrest has been made and the individual was charged with first-degree murder. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
(CNN) — The Pentagon has declined Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for aid from the DC National Guard to help with migrants entering the city by bus, according to a US defense official.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rejected the request because the Department of Defense has “determined providing this support would negatively impact the readiness of the DCNG and have negative effects on the organization and members,” the official said.
The official said grant funding through FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program is sufficient. “We understand SAMU First Response has received grant funding through FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program and has indicated that sufficient EFSP funds exist at this point to provide migrant assistance.”
Bowser told reporters on Friday that she wants to continue to work with the Pentagon to ensure political considerations “are not a part of their decision.”
The Democrat, who has served as the District’s mayor under US presidents of both parties, alluded to the use of the National Guard during the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol: “Having the experience where the use of the DC National Guard was politicized, that puts the District in unsafe territory,” she told reporters Friday.
“We want to continue to work with the Department of Defense so that they understand our operational needs, and to assure that any political considerations are not a part of their decision,” she added.
In a letter from the Department of Defense, Bowser said the Pentagon highlighted “the concern about the open-ended nature of our request, and their ability to respond to it.”
“So having just looked at their letter, they appear to say a more specified request would help them understand our needs,” Bowser added.
According to the office of Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, more than 6,500 migrants have arrived in Washington from Texas on more than 160 buses.
The city has facilitated the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency with a $1 million grant, the mayor said at a news conference last week.
However, city officials and non-government organizations have been increasingly concerned about the pace of arrivals over recent weeks. The mayor’s office requested to convert the DC Armory, Joint Base Bolling, Fort McNair or other “suitable federal location in the National Capital Region” into a processing center for the migrants. The regional welcome center established to aid the migrants in Montgomery County, Maryland, is at capacity, according to the request.
“I’ve asked for the deployment of the Guard as long as we need the Guard to deal with the crisis that we expect to escalate,” Bowser said last week. “The number of people crossing the border seeking asylum we expect to only go up. And we need to make sure that there is a national response, not an ad-hoc, city by city, state by state response.”
Bowser also highlighted the differences in the situation in DC compared to other states.
“We need to ask the President for the use of our National Guard, which we know can be very helpful in these logistical matters,” she said at the time.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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