The city re-opened its migrant resource and processing center at a new location Thursday to assist the growing number of migrants being brought to San Antonio from the U.S-Mexico border.
Since April 2021, more than 185,000 migrants have passed through San Antonio to make their way to their host cities across the country as part of the legal immigration process, according to city officials. The average is 600 arrivals each day, with more than 500 requiring overnight shelter. These numbers, which are expected to increase if Title 42 is lifted, prompted the city to again provide services to migrants, but the center that was previously located downtown closed in 2019.
Last month, the City of San Antonio requested $10.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (FEMA) with the intention of using the bulk of that reimbursement to cover the cost of opening the new center, which will be used as shelter for migrants in an emergency.
Roland Martinez, public information officer for the city’s Department of Human Services, said the new center has a larger capacity.
“It’s designed for the city and the nonprofit partners who are working on this, just to serve the migrants at a single point of entry,” he said. “So, rather than the migrants going to the airport, to the Greyhound bus station, or Travis Park Church, which are not equipped to provide the services and resources to this larger influx, that’s the purpose now [of] this migrant Resource Center.”
In a briefing to reporters last month, Lori Houston, assistant city manager, said the center will help address many things.
“You could have, you know, 200 people [migrants] spending the night at the airport,” said Houston, when migrants’ flights don’t leave the same day. “We need to be able to clear the airport out so we can operate, and so on. The processing center will help us.”
She said the same problem is happening downtown, with Travis Park becoming “very congested” when Travis Park Church’s Corazon shelter reaches capacity.
“It’s not going to serve as [a] shelter,” she said. “At this time, we’re going to be sending people out to the hotels that we have access to right now. But in the event it has to be, we’ll have [the new center] for overflow shelter.”
The center, at a former CPS Energy building at 7000 San Pedro Ave., will also provide better data management among the nonprofit partners, said Martinez.
“Rather than having all these different partners with their own information, this resource center will provide a central management of that,” he said.
The center, which will operate from 8 a.m. to midnight daily, will be equipped with service agencies and nonprofit volunteers who will provide travel resources to migrants, as well as three meals a day, service referrals, cots for overnight shelter and water. Staff at the center will include city employees who volunteer after hours, Martinez said.
“We can’t continue to have the congestion in our airport like we have, or in Travis Park,” said Houston.
“It’s hot outside, you have volunteers out there trying to help these [migrant] families who have gone through a lot of work to get through the border and get to San Antonio,” she said.
Houston added the city has developed a “great relationship” with Border Patrol and said they’ve been assigned a liaison from the Homeland Security Office in Texas, whom they communicate with regularly on the influx of migrants.
“They know our capacity for rooms. They’re trying to work with the other cities and sending migrants to those cities based on their capacity,” she said.