PHILADELPHIA – A second bus carrying immigrants from Texas arrived in Philadelphia Monday morning, a twice-in-six-days sequel that propelled the city to offer fresh welcome to more weary, uncertain travelers from the border.
Immigration advocates said the bus with an estimated 48 Spanish-speaking passengers was sent here by Gov. Greg Abbott. The bus, which they only learned about on Sunday, landed outside 30th Street Station in freezing temperatures, welcomed by city officials and immigrant leaders. The first bus arrived last week.
The men and women aboard had crossed the southern border into Texas, and all have permission to be in the United States, at least for now. The travelers originally came from Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
More than 20 immigrant leaders, city officials and volunteers met the bus, some having waited hours, immediately handing out blankets and, to a toddler, a puffy winter coat.
Most of the arrivals were men. About 30 people were quickly transferred to a waiting SEPTA bus, to be moved to a city welcome center in North Philadelphia.
One man hobbled down the bus exit on a crutch. A woman was sobbing.
Mayra and Kevin Arvoledo described a harrowing two-month journey from Ecuador. Others making similar treks didn’t make it, they said
The couple and Sofia, their 3-year-old, are headed to Connecticut. As volunteers zipped Sofia in a jacket, Kevin described being overwhelmed by the kindness he’s been met with in Philly.
“All these organizations have really made us feel welcome,” he said in Spanish, waiting for family to pick them up.
This bus, like the first, departed from Del Rio, Texas, a small border city 150 miles west of San Antonio.
The first arrived on Wednesday, sent here by Abbott in what he said was an effort to bring “much-needed relief” to Texas’ border communities – and that Mayor Jim Kenney called a despicable political stunt, one that used immigrant families as pawns to push a “warped political agenda.”
Abbott, a Republican, bragged that he delivered thousands of immigrants to New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and last week added Philadelphia to that list of destinations.
According to volunteers at the welcome center, most if not all of those aboard this new bus were seeking asylum – a legal means of staying in the United States for people may be persecuted in their homelands. Passengers told volunteers they were offered multiple drop-off choices free of charge.
In a Tweet Monday, Abbott said, “Texas is doing whatever it takes to provide relief to our overwhelmed border communities.” He also said that his administration has sent 13,500 immigrants via bus to sanctuary cities like Philadelphia.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, estimated that Texas has spent more than $2,166 per migrant to bus people to Washington, New York and Chicago.
“At that price,” he tweeted, “Texas could have bought each person multiple first-class plane tickets.”
Since summer, the city Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Office of Emergency Management have been preparing for the potential arrival of migrants on unscheduled, unanticipated bus routes from Southern states.
Those agencies have been meeting regularly to plan a response with 15 local community-based organizations, including Juntos, HIAS Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and Nationalities Service Center.
At the welcome center Monday, volunteers greeted the new arrivals with familiar food, including arepas and empanadas, and helped them connect with family and legal resources. According to volunteers, most would not be staying in Philly.
Still, as immigrant advocates helped process people they wondered if the arrival of two buses in quick succession meant that more would be coming this week.
“We might end up Thanksgiving Day welcoming people at the train station,” said Casa de Venezuela founder Emilio Buitrago. “We don’t know.”
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