(CNN) — Genesis Figueroa and her husband spent more than a month traveling from Venezuela to the US border, an exhausting journey that was briefly cut short when she was hospitalized with pneumonia in Guatemala.
Less than a week after finding refuge in Eagle Pass, Texas, after crossing the Rio Grande, they embarked on another journey Thursday morning: this time to the city of Washington, on a bus.
Figueroa and her husband are among thousands of immigrants bused from the Lone Star State to Washington and New York City this year at the direction of Texas Governor Greg Abbott in an effort to highlight their criticism of the immigration policies of the Biden administration.
“Before we started transporting immigrants to New York, it was only Texas and Arizona that bore the brunt of all the chaos and problems that come with it,” the governor said. in a statement this week. “Now the rest of America can understand exactly what’s going on.”
Abbott said Friday that the state had bused more than 7,000 immigrants to Washington since April and more than 900 immigrants to New York City since Aug. 5.
Many, like Figueroa, are happy to leave Texas. Buses stop in several cities on the way to the northeast, allowing migrants to disembark to meet friends and family elsewhere. In Washington, Figueroa and her husband will meet with her friends.
But New York officials have criticized travel conditions, saying immigrants arriving on those buses are hungry, thirsty and “often sick.”
“We’ve been on the road for so long that we don’t care for two or three more days,” Figueroa, 28, told CNN in Spanish.
Neither did the cousins Luis Pulido and Aynner Garrido, who spent six weeks traveling from Venezuela to Texas. Pulido’s younger brother did not come to the United States with them. He disappeared as the group swam across the Rio Grande. Officials at the shelter in Texas told Pulido they found the body of his brother; he had drowned.
But the cousins have come this far and are determined to continue with their plans. They will board the bus to the city of Washington and will get off before their destination, in Kentucky, where their relatives will be waiting to pick them up.
“They want to go on the buses,” said Valeria Wheeler, executive director of Mission: Border Hope, a nonprofit organization serving the border community in Eagle Pass. “No one has been forced.”
Groups go partly because they want to, Wheeler added, and partly because it’s a free ride to New York or Washington.
Receiving cities have struggled to accommodate the increase in immigrants and their needs. New York City officials said last week that intake centers were already overwhelmed, and while they planned to open more emergency housing this month, they faced problems stemming from a lack of coordination from the state of Texas.
“Basically, they have weaponized this situation,” Manuel Castro, commissioner of the mayor’s office of immigrant affairs, said at a recent city council hearing. “We have learned that the bus company they have been working with has a confidentiality agreement that does not allow them to communicate with New York City.” Abbott’s office did not respond to previous CNN questions about confidentiality agreements for bus companies.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams also accused Abbott of forcing immigrants onto buses, which the governor has denied.
Last week, the mayor of the city of Washington, Muriel Bowser, renewed an application for the National Guard to help with the continued arrival of migrants, after an earlier request was denied. His office has said the city has reached a “tipping point.”
The mayor’s office also called for converting a “suitable federal location” into a processing center for migrants, saying a regional welcome center in Maryland was full, CNN previously reported.
Back in Eagle Pass, more than 40 people, including men, women and children, boarded the bus headed for Washington City Thursday morning along with cousins Pulido and Garrido, and Figueroa and her husband.
When she gets there, Figueroa told CNN she hopes she can find work cooking, cleaning or in an office, so she can support her family at home.