Speed Reads

Free ride?

Texas has spent $12.7 million, or $1,400 per passenger, busing migrants to New York and D.C.

Texas has spent nearly $13 million transporting migrants to New York City and Washington, D.C., according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. As of Aug. 9, Texas paid charter company Wynne Transportation $12.7 million to bus thousands of migrants to the East Coast, CNN reported Wednesday, citing a spreadsheet obtained through an open records request. The Division of Emergency Management confirmed those numbers to several news organizations.

Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) office said more than 7,400 willing migrants have been bused to D.C. and more than 1,500 to New York since April, meaning his administration is spending about $1,400 per migrant to transport. "Comparatively, a one-way, same-day ticket on a Greyhound bus from El Paso costs $291 to New York City and $324 to Washington, D.C.," the El Paso Times reports. "Same-day flights to either destination are under $400." Abbott has requested private donations to offset the cost to taxpayers, but had received just $167,828 as of Aug. 17, CNN reports

Abbott rolled out the busing program as part of his multibillion-dollar Operation Lone Star border initiative. He said Wednesday that Chicago has been added to the list of destination cities.

Critics of the program call it an election-year political stunt, and New York and D.C. leaders have indicated their displeasure, but Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) said it's actually a pretty good deal for the migrants themselves. "It is usually the responsibility of released migrants to cover the cost of their travel throughout the U.S. as their asylum cases are pending in court," CNN notes.

Abbot's goal is "to demonize migrants and incite fear among Americans," but his "busing strategy has brought them closer to their destinations and saved them travel costs," Escobar told the El Paso Times. "In reality, providing transportation to migrants when coordinated with NGOs to cities with capacity to help is a glimpse into what humanitarian support systems could look like in America if we prioritized assistance and community-based services to those arriving at our nation's front door."