So many migrants are passing through San Antonio on their journey from the U.S.-Mexico border that local officials asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection to halt arrivals at its new migrant resource center for several days at the end of July.
Border Patrol and nonprofit groups bring asylum-seeking migrants to San Antonio from Del Rio and Eagle Pass so that they can catch flights or buses elsewhere in the country to meet family members or sponsors.
“We let Border Patrol and nonprofits know that that 600 a day really is our capacity that we feel like we can handle,” said Melody Woosley, director of the city’s Department of Human Services. “We’ve gotten more, but we keep reminding those nonprofits that that’s our capacity.”
Faced with record high numbers of migrants passing through San Antonio after being processed by federal authorities, the city’s human services department opened a Migrant Resource Center on July 7. Migrants waiting to travel to destinations throughout the U.S. had caused crowding at the airport and bus station.
From July 22 to 24, the city requested a halt in new arrivals. But the Migrant Resource Center continued to process arrivals during those days, Woosley said.
“We had a few days where we asked the border nonprofits and Border Patrol to not bring new migrants so that we could catch up,” said Woosley.
“I think they understand,” she said. But “they have capacity also. Sometimes they don’t have a choice but to send the buses.”
Nearly 25,000 migrants passed through San Antonio in July, with 11,000 coming to the migrant center, according to city officials. Individuals who have tickets to continue their journey immediately when arriving in San Antonio are taken directly to the airport or Greyhound Bus station; all others come to the migrant resource center.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was not able to provide a comment in time for publication Thursday.
Woosley disputed a report from Breitbart suggesting that the city was considering busing migrants back to the border or elsewhere, as Gov. Greg Abbott has done, leaving them in cities where they have no family or connections.
“We did not put migrants on buses and drive them back [to the border],” said Woosley, who pointed to the city’s partnership with nonprofit groups that help migrants make their way to their intended destinations.
“When Catholic Charities helps a client purchase a ticket, they make sure there’s someone on the other side, either a shelter bed or a family member,” said Woosley. “That’s how we’re trying to help people transit.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in mid-July to discuss the increasing numbers of migrants arriving in San Antonio. Nirenberg told KSAT he asked for assistance processing migrants and encouraged the Biden administration to “distribute the burden” of migrants across other Texas cities.
“San Antonio I think has come up with a good solution for what we’re seeing here locally,” Nirenberg said of the migrant center. “[That] could be adopted and made more efficient across these areas that are already seeing migration flows on a daily basis regardless of Title 42.”
Title 42 is a public health rule the Trump administration invoked to keep migrants from entering the country during the pandemic. The Biden administration plans to end it, a move that likely would cause many more migrants to be able to cross into the country.
Though the decision is still held up in court, City of San Antonio staff said the new migrant resource center was designed to allow the city to handle an increase in migrants. It’s funded by a federal grant that is expected to cover the costs through the end of the year.
“We don’t want people dropped off in San Antonio without any support, roaming the streets… that’s not what this community wants or needs,” said Woosley. “We will continue to work on this as long as we need to, but of course we would prefer that the numbers go down.”