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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney
City officials reaffirmed that Philadelphia welcomes migrants with open arms. Photo by Carlos Nogueras / AL DÍA News

“Please know you are welcome here,” City of Philadelphia gives update on first migrant bus

Philly officials involved in the migrant rescue effort say they are frustrated but proud of the city’s response.

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City officials convened the press in the Mayor’s reception room on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to give updates following the arrival of a migrant bus in Philadelphia this morning sent by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. 

A bus carrying 28 migrants from across South and Central America — including a 10-year-old child — arrived in Philadelphia at 6 a.m. as part of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, a route diversion that transports migrants from Del Río, Texas, to Democratic cities.

“It’s not just unproductive and disappointing, downright irresponsible, and callous, but to do this unannounced and without coordination, showing blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“I’m incredibly proud of the agencies that have stepped up to ensure that these individuals and families have the resources they need after another long journey,” Kenney added. 

Abbott preliminarily gave Philadelphia a three-day heads-up, but the specific timing of the bus’ arrival was known late the night before, prompting city officials to mount a response effort in a crunch in collaboration with immigrant rights advocacy groups

Present in the reception office were officials who intervened — including Mayor Jim Kenney, Tumar Alexander, the city’s Managing Director, Dominick Mireles of the Office of Emergency Management, Amy Eusebio, Executive Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner. 

Philadelphia City officials: see article.
Left to right: Dominick Mireles, David Kang, Amy Eusebio, and Tumar Alexander. Photo by Carlos Nogueras / AL DÍA News 

City officials were accompanied by Alex Kang, Andy Kang, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Immigration Citizenship and Coalition, and Peter Pedemonti, co-director of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia.

As soon as the bus parked West of 30th St Station, the busiest transit hub in Philadelphia, migrants were escorted to two SEPTA buses parked on the premises just after they were handed clothing and coffee. 

Of the 28 migrants forced to make the 28-hour trip, seven of them departed the station, while another 19 were transported to the intake facility prepared by advocacy groups, with support from the city, according to Mireles. 

The 10-year-old, who was sick at the time of travel, was taken to the hospital with her parents. 

Dr. Bettigole, who said she was “deeply frustrated at the way this was done,” offered limited information, citing concerns about privacy. 

“This morning went incredibly well,” said Eusebio. “I really feel like this morning was a testament to a strong public-private partnership for welcoming and setting an example for what it could look like,” she noted of the response efforts and recognized their community collaborators who, according to Eusebio, worked with the city for “around three months” before Wednesday’s unprecedented activation. 

Those who didn’t immediately vacate the 30th Street Station area traveled to an intake facility where advocacy groups had legal resources to assist in the transition, if necessary. The city noted that many would be traveling to neighboring states.

Two in total will be staying in Philadelphia, where the city will provide temporary housing, city officials said. 

David Kang, Pennsylvania Immigration Citizenship and Coalition, and Peter Pedemonti, co-director of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia.
David Kang and Peter Pedemonti, directors of their respective immigrant advocacy groups, said they were happy with the city's response. Photo by Carlos Nogueras / AL DÍA News

Officials were unable to respond to the circumstances under which migrants were lured, a facet of the migrant diversion crisis that has largely remained shrouded in mystery.

At the outset of the bus reroutes, cities scrambled to accommodate the volume of people that were being transported from Del Río. It is estimated at this point that upwards of thousands of migrants have been diverted to Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., and New York, averaging two buses a day.

Asked whether the Mayor is concerned about the influx and if the city’s capacity is equipped to receive a large volume of buses, Kenney said, “we’ll get it done.” Kenney did not directly address if the infrastructure was poised to be overwhelmed but is expecting additional buses. 

And responding to what the rescue effort cost the city, officials said they are continuing to draw an estimate, officials said. 

“There are always concerns for immigrant families,” councilmember-elect Quetcy Lozada, said. “But they’re entering a city that will give them a hand,” she added. 

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