CM Nadeau's Remarks on the Migrant Services and Supports Emergency Act of 2022
Since April, over 8,000 migrants have arrived by bus in the District of Columbia. For six months, mutual aid volunteers have stepped up to greet, welcome, and meet the needs of travelers desperately in need of rest and support. And over those five months, we’ve seen the number of persons arriving in the District each day increase from 50 to more than 300.
It is our responsibility, as a sanctuary city, as a city that has always welcomed those cast off from somewhere else, to greet every single person who arrives here with dignity, with a warm welcome, and, ultimately, with the services they need to thrive.
That is a responsibility that falls to all of us.
Not just to a small group of compassionate volunteers; not just to those who work in immigration law; not just to a FEMA grantee, but to all of us, many of us children of immigrants in a country of children of immigrants.
Right now, though, we don’t have the tools to exercise that responsibility.
We have no specialized institution that can work with immigration officials; that can ensure people get to their sponsors and establish a permanent address; that can get people what they need to survive and then send them where they’re going to thrive.
And for those who choose to stay here, we have no legal tools to serve them in the best way possible.
I have spent months coordinating with our regional partners, who are eager to help. Montgomery County is already providing services and a respite site, and we must be doing the same.
This legislation allows the District to answer that call to leadership too.
By creating a new office within the Department of Human Services, the District will direct specialists to special needs, and better meet the needs of everyone.
This legislation will ensure that every migrant is greeted by a bilingual, culturally competent professional; that they have respite; that they have food and clothing, and that they are safe, and welcome.
And we can do all that without undermining decades of progress in our struggle to end homelessness in the District.
We know that because we are following the lead of border towns and jurisdictions with specialized Newcomer Networks in implementing this best practice.
In 2017, this Council strengthened our Homeless Services Reform Act in 2017, and since that time we have funded thousands of units of housing for those experiencing homelessness. This legislation allows us to continue that work as well.
I plan to move a permanent version of this legislation through the Committee on Human Services as soon as possible.
And I promise to work to ensure that, with this Office, comes hope, care, and accountability: that, as a sanctuary city, we can finally match the strength of our actions to the tenor of our words.