WASHINGTON D.C. — Over the last five months, migrants have been bussed from places like Texas and Arizona to Washington D.C. Now, other states are starting to receive them as well and questions continue to loom about long-term solutions.
From the streets of the city, you'd never know what's happening in this church basement. Tatiana Laborde, the managing director for SAMU First Response, explains this is just one church in the national capitol offering their space for migrants being bussed into town.
"The past five months have been a very big learning experience for the district and any other city that's pretty much receiving migrants this way. We are not a border town. We've become this artificial border town by political moves," Laborde said.
The church has opened its doors to the migrants.
"It's in close proximity to the station and it has a big enough space. They've created this beautiful welcoming area in their basement with toys, with clothing, with baby strollers. They've also created outdoor showers for the migrants," Laborde said.
Laborde is helping coordinate these arrivals daily. The D.C. mayor estimates that more than 9,400 people have been bussed in from Arizona and Texas.
"As a migrant myself—I came in 2000 with my family—I do understand that belief in the American dream. I made it through college, through grad school and now I am able to give back to my own community with the work we're doing," Laborde said.
In less than five minutes, a bus pulls up in front of this church and dozens of people get off. In a blink, they are inside, away from the hustle and bustle of D.C. The migrants received a fresh meal, a shower and some new clothes. This is all temporary before they figure out what their next steps are.
Some of these migrants are being picked up by family, like Claudia Gomez who is here to get her 21-year-old niece. She traveled for nearly 15 days from Nicaragua, alone.
"I don't sleep for days, nervous and praying, but she said I'm being positive," Gomez said. "She say she is really worried when she is coming here because she is coming by herself. The plan is to stay with me, and yeah, that's the plan."
However, that's not the case for everyone. Not everyone has a plan.
"So the long-term planning is extremely difficult because we don't know at what point they are going to stop bussing people from the border, but we don't expect this to stop at least until December of this year and it's going to intensify as we go into the fall," Laborde said.
Laborde and her team opened up a new shelter in Maryland this past June, but that's just one. They are working with the city on creating a referral program to get families to the right case management.
More states are receiving people by bus loads, and organizations like SAMU are trying to be an example of the work other cities can do.
"One thing we've been trying to do this last month is establish communication with the organizations in New York with academia in Chicago to see how we can share what we have learned so they even replicate or modify for their local communities," Laborde said.
These long-term solutions are currently some of the biggest barriers, but the work is far from over.
"We might be tired of the word resilient, but they are. Ya know, they've made it through the jungle. They've made it through Mexico. Some of them have come in the caravans, some of them have come on top of the bestia, so they are warriors," Laborde said.