‘They are exhausted’: Asylum-seekers arrive by bus in Philadelphia

Mayor Jim Kenney called Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to bus asylum-seekers to Philadelphia a “purposefully cruel policy using immigrant families … as pawns.”

A bus of asylum-seekers at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station

A bus of asylum-seekers, sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, departs near 30th Street Station after arriving on Nov. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Joe Lamberti)

A bus full of people seeking asylum — sent from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott — arrived at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia early Wednesday morning.

The group of 29 people were then transferred via SEPTA bus to a facility in Juniata Park, where they received medical treatment if necessary, in addition to fresh clothes and legal help.

Many had already made arrangements with friends or family to be picked up, and a steady stream of cars came in and out of the facility through the morning.

State Rep. Amen Brown met the asylum-seekers as they arrived at a welcome center in Juniata Park.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“Roughly around 19 people made it to this site,” Brown said. “Around 31 got off the bus, some of the folks organized rides and people to pick them up.”

Brown added that one child was reportedly taken to the hospital with a fever after enduring the lengthy bus trip.

Emilio Buitrago of Casa De Venezuela, a nonprofit designed to support the advancement of the Venezuelan community, said a number of organizations are working to help those seeking asylum.

“They are exhausted after 40-plus hours in a bus,” Buitrago said. “They have a place now where they are going to be able to shower rest and get a change of clothes. That’s what we are working on.”

As of midday, 14 adults and two children were still being taken care of at the refugee center.

“Many of these families might not wind up staying in Philadelphia. It seems like they have a connection and might end up going somewhere else they might wind up in Ohio, New York, New Jersey,” he said. “We’re trying to find out where they are going to go.”

Brown said this could be the first of many buses coming to town via Texas. Philadelphia was chosen by Abbott because of its sanctuary city status.

Ahead of Wednesday’s arrival, Kenney issued a statement calling Abbott’s actions “disgusting.”

“Governor Abbott and his administration continue to implement their purposefully cruel policy using immigrant families—including women and children—as pawns to shamelessly push his warped political agenda,” Kenney said. “Sadly, racism and human cruelty have historically been intertwined in how immigrants are received by and within this country, something the previous presidential administration openly and actively encouraged.”

Since the summer, Kenney’s office says the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Office of Emergency Management have preparing for the possible arrival of asylum-seekers from southern states.

Some of the people flown to Martha’s Vineyard from Florida earlier this year in a similar move have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming Gov. Ron DeSantis engaged in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to relocate them.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Delaware leaders also scrambled in September after another flight of asylum-seekers was thought to be headed to a southern Delaware airport. That plane never arrived.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal