WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — After a four-month search, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration has hired a migrant services director to lead the effort to help process the thousands of migrants who pass through the District from Texas and Arizona.
Sources said Tatiana Laborde, who oversaw the migrant process for the nonprofit humanitarian group SAMU First Response, will lead the Office of Migrant Services that the mayor announced in September of last year.
There is a growing need to help marshal the efforts to help not only get migrants to where they wish to go, but also to address the growing number of those who wish to stay in D.C., District officials said. There isn’t a location yet to help process the migrants.
Bowser declared a public emergency in September to establish the office to help handle the response.
Laborde, 38, who left her managing director post with SAMU in December, sources said, could not be reached for comment. A formal announcement is expected soon, according to sources.
A spokesman for the Department of Human Services, which will oversee the migrant services position, did not have an immediate comment.
Laborde and SAMU officials were the faces that first greeted the hundreds of buses carrying migrants here since April, some of whom had gone without showers or personal care after crossing over the border with Mexico from a litany of South American countries.
There have been an estimated 12,000 migrants who have passed through the District since the governors of Arizona and Texas controversially began to ship migrants on buses to D.C. as a way to protest President Joe Biden’s immigration and border policies.
The buses coming to the District often made national news because some of them were sent to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris at the Naval Observatory, where they dropped people off in extreme cold and rain. Migrant babies as young as a month old also were sent on buses.
Laborde has a unique perspective in the role she is undertaking. She is a migrant from Colombia, South America, who came to the United States when she was 15 years old.
In an interview in August 2022 with DC News Now, Laborde said the focus was on “respite care” to help migrants have temporary lodging for one to three nights and get them ready for their next destination in places such as New York, Florida or North Carolina.
“We do need a big facility to centralize operations in the District,” Laborde said at the time of the interview. “What we need to figure out is how we do a resettlement program within District and where those resources are going to come from.”
District officials were not ready for the phalanx of migrants coming through D.C. (some of whom decided to stay), and the mayor felt that she needed to act. In September, Bowser announced that the District was allocating $10 million to start the office and support organizations helping to process and resettle migrants.
The creation of the Office of Migrant Services was to help provide support to migrants through reception, meals, temporary accommodations, medical needs and transportation as well as connections to resettlement services.
Bowser had requested the National Guard’s assistance to address the “humanitarian crisis” because of the surge in migrants bussed to the city from Texas and Arizona. The Department of Defense denied multiple requests from Bowser.
The Migrant Services Office is housed within D.C.’s Department of Human Services.