Philadelphia standing ready if migrants arrive from Texas

Officials called the situation "fluid," adding that Texas officials have not coordinated with the City of Philadelphia.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Philadelphia preparing for possible arrival of migrants from Texas
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The City of Philadelphia says a bus of migrants may soon be arriving from Texas.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The City of Philadelphia says it will be prepared if migrants arrive from the southern border.

Word started spreading late last week that a bus of migrants was coming from Texas.

However, according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott's office, that's not the case.

A spokesperson released a statement to Action News on Monday saying, "We are currently only busing migrants to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago."

Still, the city and other local agencies will be ready in the event those plans change.

"The migrants will be greeted, literally welcomed by various organizations because our city is one that is waiting for them literally with open arms," said Steven Barsamian, Esquire, an immigration lawyer in Bala Cynwyd.

The City of Philadelphia says a bus of migrants may soon be arriving from Texas.

Last week, the city learned there may be a bus with around 52 people seeking asylum. The group was planning to arrive in Philadelphia from Del Rio, Texas.

"We will welcome them with open arms and do everything we can to make the transition smooth," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Sunday. "It doesn't matter whether they found their way up here, whether they were put on a bus -- they are human beings. They want to be in America. They want to do what all of our, most of our ancestors have done, is just make their life in America."

Plans have been underway for the potential arrival of migrants from southern states since the summer. Governors from Texas and Florida have been sending migrants up to northern cities like New York City as a way to protest the Biden administration's immigration policies.

The city says the information was relayed to them from a community partner organization as Texas officials have not coordinated with the city.

Once the migrants arrive, groups like HIAS Pennsylvania will be providing them with resources.

"Some of the materials that we're going to provide is going to be a map of the United States to show them where Philadelphia is," said Cathryn Miller-Wilson, the executive director of HIAS Pennsylvania. "We will be providing several 'know your rights' sessions in English and Spanish."

Philadelphia has had practice with large groups of refugees and asylum-seekers. It was a designated city for refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. The difference here is there is no coordination with the state of Texas.

Part of a statement from the mayor's office sent to Action News said, "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, 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."

The city and local organizations will also work to meet long-term needs including work permits and legal paperwork.

"We know that has been an issue in other cities... they don't know where they are and what the next steps are in the legal process," said Stephen Larin, the deputy director with the Nationalities Service Center.

Larin also said lawyers will work with people to file the necessary paperwork to make sure they remain in the country legally.

Barsamian says the next steps are for the migrants to stay close to the system.

"Don't drop out, don't be afraid, I mean after what they've been through, there's really nothing more that they could be afraid of," said Barsamian.

Barsamian says there should be an opportunity for the folks getting off the bus here.

"Philadelphia needs workers, and here's 52 of them coming in. They're not legal to work, they don't have employment authorization, but we're working on trying to figure out a way to get that for them quicker than the normal route," said Barsamian.

The city says more information will be released as it becomes available.