LOS ANGELES — Forty-two migrants arrived in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon after a nearly 24-hour bus ride from Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott called their removal "much-needed relief" for his state.
"Texas’ small border towns remain overwhelmed and overrun by the thousands of people illegally crossing into Texas from Mexico because of President Biden’s refusal to secure the border," he said in a statement.
Abbott said that Los Angeles is a “major city that migrants seek to go to” and that Texas would continue to provide what he called “this much-needed relief” until Biden secures the border.
The arrivals, who were given food, shelter and legal aid at a church near downtown, included at least eight children and several older people, immigration advocates said.
Speaking to reporters outside the church, immigration advocates and city officials did not provide a full manifest of those who arrived by charter bus but said several of the passengers came from Venezuela, Guatemala and Honduras, with two of African descent and one of Asian descent.
"They are exhausted, tired and traumatized," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesperson for the nonprofit Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
It was not immediately clear whether the migrants voluntarily made the trip or whether they knew where they were going, he added.
Immigration lawyer Lindsay Toczylowski said her team will work closely with the migrants to determine whether they were illegally detained.
"They're finally being treated with the dignity they deserve," she said.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass was away on a planned trip to Washington, D.C., when the bus arrived, but city and Los Angeles County officials had initiated multiagency preparations Tuesday night when word spread that Los Angeles was next on Abbott's list of sanctuary cities.
In an emailed statement, Bass said "it is abhorrent that an American elected official is using human beings as pawns in his cheap political games."
"Shortly after I took office, I directed City Departments to begin planning in the event Los Angeles was on the receiving end of a despicable stunt that Republican Governors have grown so fond of," she said. "This did not catch us off guard, nor will it intimidate us."
Since last year, Texas has bused more than 21,000 migrants to cities across the country, according to Abbott's statement.
Abbott described the migrants dropped off in Los Angeles on Wednesday as the “first group.” It’s unclear whether Texas plans to send additional migrants, but city and immigration officials have said they’ll be ready if more arrive.
Los Angeles is just the latest California city to receive migrants from red states whose conservative governors have gone head-to-head with Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Two flights from Florida landed in Sacramento this month carrying a combined 36 immigrants. Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed responsibility for the flights and said all boarded the planes voluntarily.
Newsom responded via tweet by calling DeSantis a "small, pathetic man" and suggested he could face kidnapping charges.
In a statement Wednesday night, Newsom took a more measured tone.
“Contrary to what some may want to think — California is also a border state but instead of demonizing asylum seekers, we focus on working with local communities to support and humanely welcome people,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, just hours before the migrants arrived in Los Angeles from Texas, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office filed a public records request to DeSantis' office and the Florida Division of Emergency Management as “part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation into the conditions under which the migrants seeking asylum were brought into California."