Del. Wren Williams, a Republican from Patrick County, asked Gov. Glenn Youngkin to deny Washington, D.C. Virginia’s assistance and resources to accommodate the growing number of asylum-seeking migrants that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues to bus to the district from the southern border on the grounds that the immigration policies of President Joe Biden encourage waves of arrivals that are too costly for his state to handle.
“Should the Biden administration or D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser request that Virginia alleviate their local predicaments by accommodating these migrants here in Virginia or by providing services (i.e. assistance, law enforcement, etc.), I urge you to deny these requests,” Williams wrote in his letter dated Aug. 15 that he posted on his Twitter feed Monday. “It is not right that Virginians should suffer additionally and have our resources and services strained because of the Biden administration’s reckless policy.”
Bowser’s office did not respond Tuesday to questions about whether the mayor would seek help from Virginia. Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in an email that she was not aware of any requests for Virginia to step up, and she would not say whether Virginia would come to the District’s help, if asked. The Biden administration earlier this month denied a request by the mayor to activate the National Guard to help process the waves or arriving migrants.
Williams, in an email, painted his letter to Youngkin as a proactive move. “D.C. routinely requests aid from Virginia. My district elected me to stop bad policy before it starts, not wait for a mess to happen that is costly and harmful to our residents,” he said.
According to news reports Texas has already forwarded 6,100 migrants to Washington alone since the Biden administration attempted to lift the pandemic-era emergency Title 42 order, which is part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944 aimed at preventing the spread of communicable diseases in the country.
The previous administration under then-President Donald Trump had invoked the title in March 2020 as a way to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in immigrant detention centers, where many migrants are placed after they arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. The order allowed border officials to expel people seeking safety in the United States without giving them any opportunity to explain their fears, even though U.S. law guarantees the right to seek asylum, and prohibits sending people to places they will be persecuted or tortured.
Civic groups like Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union decried the title’s implementation, which continued after Biden assumed office in 2021. Last spring, the Center for Disease Control announced that they would rescind Title 42 – but in May a federal court blocked the agency from ending Title 42 expulsion.
In the meantime, the Biden administration has released hundreds of thousands of migrants apprehended at the border into the country to face removal proceedings – much to the chagrin of Republicans who criticize Biden’s immigration policies for encouraging the increased influx of immigrants.
“Our country is being invaded by criminals and drugs from our southern border. Our border has turned into a highway for human trafficking. This is 100% the fault of the Biden administration’s rhetoric and policy,” Williams said in an email Tuesday. “Biden encouraged migrants to ‘surge’ to the border, and they listened. Why should Virginians be asked to help while the Biden administration and Democrat party refuse to secure the border?”
Williams also said that he does not want his own district in Southwest Virginia, which includes not just Patrick County but parts of Franklin and Henry counties, to carry the burden. “We have a serious housing shortage in our district and across the state. Our infrastructure and services don’t have the capacity to absorb these populations. Our taxpayers are overburdened already. Our legal process and law enforcement are being overrun,” he said.
Porter, the Youngkin spokeswoman, generally echoed Williams’s sentiments. “The governor has made very clear that the unacceptable actions and lack of leadership from the Biden administration have exacerbated the crisis at our southern border,” she said. Porter added that Youngkin has also taken “decisive action” by joining the American Governors Border Strike Force, an initiative of 26 Republican-led states, spear-headed by Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, that was formed as the number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has reached a two-decade high. “The governor is committed to be a part of border solutions,” Porter said.
Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington, said that Youngkin’s position on immigration is evidence for a shift to the right. “The Youngkin political strategy over the last several months is to focus on partisan matters and draw a much clearer conservative ideological identity than Youngkin offered as a candidate a year ago,” he said.
And for Williams – who will face a primary opponent in Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, next year – one of the best ways to raise a profile as one of 100 lawmakers is to find a way to be combative, Farnsworth said. “For a Republican state lawmaker in a red district taking on a Democratic president has little downside. And for a Republican lawmaker in a largely white district taking on immigration as a topic has little downside,” he said.