The Texas bus program sends nearly 17,000 migrants across the country.

Austin. As of Jan. 3, more than 16,500 Texas migrants were bussed to other cities as part of the state’s controversial program.

Launched in April, the program allows migrants who entered the United States illegally and who have been cleared by US border officials to move around the country and volunteer to board buses that will transport them around the country at no cost to migrants.

The program originally sent migrants to Washington, DC. To date, 9,000 migrants have landed in the capital.

In August, the program expanded to New York, where more than 5,100 migrants had moved as of January 3.

The state also sent more than 1,500 migrants to Chicago and more than 840 migrants to Philadelphia, according to the latest state data.

Buses were even sent to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, DC.

“We will continue to provide relief to overburdened border communities as (President Joe) Biden refuses to secure the border,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a Jan. 3 tweet.

Abbott, who pioneered the program, said he specifically targeted sanctuary cities led by Democratic leaders who openly opposed the program, calling them “hypocrites.”

He also made it clear that new cities could be added.

Abbott said the program is needed because the Texas border towns are flooded with undocumented immigrants. The program, he said, helps these small border communities and also sends migrants to cities that have more resources to help.

However, left-wing politicians and immigrant advocates criticized the program, accusing Abbott of using migrants as pawns in immigration policy.

“(Abbott) treats them like cargo, like political pawns. There is nothing good in what this man is doing, ”said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in response to the appearance of migrants from Texas in her city.

The Texas Department of Emergency Management manages the program. Previous estimates of the cost of the program were about $2,000 per migrant, with the government spending $26 million to transport about 13,000 migrants as of November.

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for updated cost estimates.

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