Migrants sent on harrowing five-day bus ride from Texas to New York amid winter storm

New York, New York - Dozens of Latin American migrants, including children and a pregnant woman, spent five days on buses in order to get to New York City from Texas after winter storm Elliott upended their travels, volunteers who greeted the wary travelers told the New York Daily News.

Migrants arriving from Del Rio, Texas, get off a bus at Port Authority in Manhattan on Monday.
Migrants arriving from Del Rio, Texas, get off a bus at Port Authority in Manhattan on Monday.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Some 50 people arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan on Christmas Day after leaving by bus from the Texas border city of El Paso on December 20, said Power Malu, the founder of a group called Artists, Athletes, Activists.

"It was the longest ride that anyone has experienced since the buses started arriving here at Port Authority," said Malu, who was among a group of volunteers who welcomed the migrants upon their arrival. "Their legs were cramped up, hobbling, feet swollen... People were hungry, tired. Really, they were in disarray."

Malu recalled that an eight-and-a-half month pregnant woman was among the new arrivals. "Luckily, we were able to get her some medical attention," he said.

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As of last Thursday, nearly 33,000 migrants, many from Venezuela, had arrived in New York since this spring after crossing into the US from Mexico in hopes of finding asylum, according to data from New York Mayor Eric Adams' office.

More than 22,400 of the migrants – many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries – remain in homeless shelters or other forms of city-subsidized housing, the data show.

Finger pointed at Texas Gov. Abbott

Nearly 33,000 migrants, many from Venezuela, have arrived in New York since this spring.
Nearly 33,000 migrants, many from Venezuela, have arrived in New York since this spring.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

After crossing into Texas or other border states, it generally takes migrants three days of traveling to arrive in New York. The group that got to the city on Christmas Day were badly delayed because "icy roads" caused by winter storm Elliott held them up and forced them to switch buses three times, Malu said.

He added that volunteers greeting migrants at Port Authority didn't get word on the timing of the group's arrival until Christmas Eve, forcing them to scramble to get people over to the station by the next morning.

"I hope that (authorities) can learn from this and be better prepared in the future when there's a storm," Malu said. "Don't take the chance of putting buses on the roads when you're expecting weather like this."

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It was not clear Monday who sent the bus from Texas. The storm has caused dozens of deaths, including 27 in New York State.

An Adams administration official said Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott may be responsible for the buses. The official said that since El Paso's local government declared a state of emergency on December 17 over the migrant influx into the border city, bus transports to other parts of the country have largely been coordinated by Abbott's administration.

"That should mean buses coming up are being sent by the state of Texas," the official said.

Abbott's office did not return a request for comment Monday.

Activists say Adams shares some of the blame for crisis

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have butted heads before.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have butted heads before.  © Collage: SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

The Texas governor has faced widespread criticism, including from the White House, for sending migrants from his state to Democrat-led cities without any coordination as political stunts.

On Christmas Eve, several busloads of migrants sent by Abbott were dropped off in the freezing cold outside Vice President Kamala Harris' home in Washington, DC, without any advance notice.

Some migrants in New York have been sent by Democratic officials in cities like El Paso, though that's been done in coordination with Adams' team, according to his office.

Though Adams and other New York Democrats have pointed fingers at Abbott for much of the city's migrant crisis, local homeless and immigrant advocates say the mayor shares some blame.

Adama Bah, an activist with TLC NYC, another volunteer organization that greets migrants at Port Authority, said Adams' administration no longer has any staff at the bus terminal providing migrants with help on how to find shelter beds and other services.

Instead, Bah said that work has been left up to volunteers like her who are not paid.

"The city should be meeting the migrants where they arrive, not just at the Port Authority but at the other bus stops and the airports, and not relying on unpaid volunteers to make sure these exhausted and vulnerable people get to where they need to be," said Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society's Homeless Rights Project.

The city homeless shelter system population remains at an all-time high amid the migrant influx, and the mayor has repeatedly warned that his administration is on the brink of fiscal catastrophe as a result.

Congress last week allocated $800 million in aid for cities dealing with the migrant crisis, and New York is expected to receive a "substantial share" of that.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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