The City of San Antonio will request $10.8 million from the federal government to help process the growing number of migrants being brought to the city from the Texas-Mexico border.

City Council approved a request for reimbursement for the money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program on Thursday.

“One of the reasons why we’re asking for so much money in this is because we are going to be opening a processing center” at 7000 San Pedro Ave. in July, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston told reporters earlier Thursday.

The federal government is currently turning away migrants, including those seeking asylum, through the use of an emergency public health order put in place by the Trump administration early in the pandemic. The Biden administration plans to lift that order, known as Title 42, though the effort has been stalled in the courts.

Houston said roughly 590 migrants are already arriving in San Antonio each day, and the city will likely set a new record for the number of migrants passing through in the month of June.

San Antonio is preparing for those numbers to increase dramatically if Title 42 is eventually lifted.

“Obviously there is crisis at the border. … We have numbers increasing,” said Houston. “However, San Antonio has always been a place where we help when there is an increase in numbers.”

Last month Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote to the Department of Homeland Security asking federal officials to transport migrants from the border to other Texas cities. In the letter he described an “unsustainable increase” in migrants arriving in San Antonio “without a clear sponsor, a destination, or the resources to reach their destination.”

Houston said nonprofit groups like Catholic Charities partner with the federal government to bring migrants to San Antonio from Eagle Pass and Del Rio, so that they can board buses and flights to other destinations where they have family or sponsors.

While many arrive with a plane or bus ticket already in hand, roughly a third of them do not, and are taken to Travis Park for processing.

“We want to make sure that they’re able to get food, water … have a place to for respite, and then we’ll have our partners there to help them with travel arrangements,” said Houston. “We can’t continue to have the congestion in our airport like we have, or in Travis Park.”

In addition to the migrant processing center, grant money will be used to reimburse the city for the cost of food and hotel rooms while migrants are awaiting flights.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.