New Jersey’s ‘Rapid Response Plan’ Is Dead In The Water

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration had considered allocating $5 million in federal COVID-19 aid for a “rapid response plan” to assist migrants from the southern border last summer. However, according to records and the governor’s office, the plan never materialized.

The proposal, mentioned in a June application to utilize relief funds, was a precautionary measure in anticipation of an increase in migrant arrivals after lifting Title 42 restrictions. While migrants have been transported to New Jersey en route to New York City, the extent of the state’s involvement remains uncertain. Governor Murphy stated that the recent influx of migrants by bus from Texas was manageable and emphasized that most migrants were not staying in the state.

These records demonstrate how the Murphy administration was prepared to address the situation if it escalated. The Title 42 policy, implemented by the Trump administration and continued through the Biden administration until May 2023, allowed for rejecting asylum-seekers at the southern border on public health grounds. This policy was enforced approximately 2 million times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The cessation of the federal public health emergency has led to the withdrawal of Title 42,” declared the acting chief financial officer of the state Department of Human Services in the submitted application. “It is anticipated that there will be a rise in border entries, with New Jersey being among the primary destinations for migrants. A strategy is in place to address the potential surge of migrants arriving in New Jersey, whether by bus or other transport methods.”

In response to the $5 million requested by Human Services, Murphy’s spokesperson, Tyler Jones, stated that no American Rescue Plan funds had been allocated for this purpose.

Over the past week, twenty-six buses carrying around 1,200 migrants from the southern border have been directed to train station stops in New Jersey to bypass New York City’s restrictions on migrant arrivals.

This situation has highlighted the impasse in Washington regarding immigration reform, forcing Democrats to live up to their pro-immigrant stance or risk alienating voters who will determine the outcome of the upcoming elections. For instance, New York Mayor Eric Adams has expressed concerns about migrants draining city resources and damaging his city. His criticism of President Biden has strained the relationship between the Democratic president and the mayor of the country’s largest city.

Over the past year, migrants have been transported to predominantly Democratic cities such as New York and Chicago by authorities, including the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, as well as administrations led by Democrats. Recently, however, municipal directives in these cities have imposed limitations on the times migrants arriving by bus can be received, resulting in these individuals being left in adjacent localities.

Two months before the New Jersey bus drop-offs, the Biden administration had considered a South Jersey airport as a potential relocation site for migrants from New York City. However, Governor Murphy deemed this plan unfeasible.