Mayor Kenney condemns Texas Governor’s cruel and dehumanizing policy

PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia announced today an update on asylum seekers and their travel to Philadelphia. It had been relayed to City officials last week that a bus of roughly 30 asylum seekers was expected to travel from Del Rio, Texas to Philadelphia. This information was confirmed late on Tuesday, November 15 by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. As Texas officials have not coordinated with the City, we do not have an anticipated time when the bus will arrive.

“As a proud welcoming city, we will greet our newly arrived neighbors with dignity and respect. City agencies, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) mass care partners, immigrant leaders, and immigrant-serving nonprofits are working together to welcome, assist, and provide support to these individuals and families. Philadelphians know that diversity is our strength, and we want to acknowledge the generosity and compassion we have already seen from residents and community partners since we were alerted to a possible bus arriving in Philadelphia. 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,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “It is truly disgusting to hear today that Governor Abbott and his Administration continue to implement their purposefully cruel policy using immigrant families—including women and children—as pawns to shamelessly push his warped political agenda. Sadly, racism and human cruelty have historically been intertwined in how immigrants are received by and within this country, something the previous presidential administration openly and actively encouraged. Since this disturbing policy of busing immigrants in an uncoordinated way began occurring without warning in other cities, various City agencies have been arduously working with our community partners to ready the city to receive these individuals.”

Late last week, the City was alerted to a possible bus arriving in Philadelphia departing from Texas by a local partner organization, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, with information from another nonprofit in Texas. At that point, the City began activating its mass care plan to address and welcome the potential bus.

Since the summer, the City’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) have been preparing for the potential arrival of migrants via unplanned and uncoordinated bus routes from southern states. The agencies have been meeting and coordinating regularly with nearly 15 local community-based organizations and partners to plan a local response, including preparations for immediate reception and shelter space, emergency health screening, food, water, language interpretation, and more. The group has been meeting since August when community leaders alerted the city to the increased bussing to nearby cities of Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Details of Individuals Seeking Asylum: As Texas officials have not coordinated with local officials, this information has not been confirmed, but it has been reported to us from our community partners that roughly half of the 30 individuals are part of family units, and half are solo individuals. Approximately seven children may be on board.

It is likely that several individuals may disembark during stops in other states on the trip. Only three individuals have Pennsylvania reported as their final destination, according to the latest information provided by our local partner organization; others are reported to continue on to nearby locations including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

Medical Preparation: The City is working with community partners to arrange for medical triage and follow-up for any new arrivals in need of medical care.

Donations: The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) and the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia have launched the Philadelphia Welcoming Fund to allow Philadelphia residents the opportunity to contribute to local efforts to welcome immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in Philadelphia.

The funds collected by the Welcoming Fund will be provided to nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area that are supporting new arrivals.

Additionally, in the Philadelphia region, Nationalities Services Center and HIAS Pennsylvania are among the nonprofit organizations offering immigration legal services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including our new arrivals. The Philadelphia region also has a thriving sector of immigrant-serving organizations that have stepped up to support these communities. They include Casa De VenezuelaGente De VenezuelaJuntosNew Sanctuary MovementAquinas Community CenterPA Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP), PA Immigration and Citizenship CoalitionAlianza Latina, the Wyss Wellness Center, and Maria de los Santos.

Please keep in mind that donated supplies cannot be accepted. The best way to support organizations that are providing aid to people is through monetary donations to the vetted groups named above that are providing immediate and long-term relief.

Note on Terminology: The City’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) advises using “individuals and families seeking asylum” to describe arriving people.

B-Roll/Photos: Photos and video will be provided by the City and will be available for media to use later in the day, with proper credit.

Guidance for Press on Site: To respect new arrivals and their privacy, we ask that media do not stage at 30th Street Station. Instead, media are encouraged to stage outside of our welcoming facility on the public sidewalk near 600 E. Luzerne Street. Upon arrival at 30th Street Station, the individuals will be transported to a welcoming facility at this location.

Due to privacy concerns, media is not permitted on the property beyond the entrance gates.