U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas held two roundtables with San Antonio leaders Wednesday, one to discuss migrants and another to discuss domestic extremism.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who attended both discussions, said Mayorkas called San Antonio “a model” in dealing with immigration, pointing to the city’s collaboration with local nonprofits to help migrants seeking asylum catch flights and buses to other cities where they have family or sponsors.
San Antonio opened a migrant resource center this summer to aid that effort. Migrants are now brought from the U.S.-Mexico border straight to the center, instead of being dropped off at the airport, bus station or Travis Park downtown.
Mayorkas did not tour the center on San Pedro Avenue, which the federal government is funding through the end of the year.
City leaders had to ask U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to send fewer migrants after opening the resource center, even requesting a pause in arrivals for several days in July when the center had exceeded its capacity of serving roughly 600 people.
Nirenberg said Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security has been responsive to those requests and is studying San Antonio’s approach as migrants are now arriving in other cities across the county.
Gov. Greg Abbott is sending busloads of migrants to New York City and Washington, D.C., overwhelming homeless shelters in those cities and testing leaders who’ve committed to welcoming immigrants.
As part of Mayorkas’ visit Wednesday, he addressed a gathering of the International Association of Fire Chiefs at the Henry B. González Convention Center in the morning but did not take questions from media.
Nirenberg, who wrote to Mayorkas in April requesting that migrants be spread out among other cities in Texas, said he’s “continuing to be open” with the administration about the challenges San Antonio has faced so that federal agencies can better assist local governments in helping migrants.
He said Wednesday’s meeting offered Mayorkas and DHS staff an opportunity to “visit with our folks directly to hear their experiences and potentially replicate success.”
San Antonio’s Department of Human Services works closely with Catholic Charities, the San Antonio Food Bank and other organizations to help feed, shelter and transport migrants who arrive at the border seeking asylum.
“The [migrant resource center] has been performing, and we’ve been working with community partners, with the staff and with the [federal] agencies to make sure that we’re handling migration volumes that ebb and flow from month to month,” Nirenberg said.
A second roundtable on domestic extremism comes after the Bexar County Democratic Party headquarters was shot at Tuesday, and local elections officials say they’re receiving threats as they prepare for the 2022 midterms.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, Nirenberg and leaders from the San Antonio police and fire departments attended.
“The discussion on domestic extremism [was about] continued collaboration among law enforcement and community members to ensure that there’s information sharing [and] reporting of threats,” as well as “being vigilant and observing threats that might happen online, so they don’t become more than that,” Nirenberg said.