Citing lower number of migrant arrivals, City of San Antonio to shut down airport transfer facility

As of Sunday, fewer than 24,000 migrants had arrived in San Antonio. December alone saw a higher tally of asylum seekers.

SAN ANTONIO — The city plans to shut down a facility near San Antonio International Airport that had been providing short-term shelter for migrants waiting to fly to their next destination. 

A memo sent by City Manager Erik Walsh to San Antonio leaders and obtained by KENS 5 says services at the Airport Transfer Center, which has been operating since May 2023, are set to end on May 1. It cites a decreased numbers of migrant arrivals in the Alamo City, reflective of trends along the Texas-Mexico border so far this year. 

“As arrivals along the Texas border have declined between December 2023 to March 2024, staff has seen a 77% decrease in asylum seekers transiting through San Antonio to complete onward travel,” Walsh wrote in the letter, dated Friday. 

That airport facility was the center of calls for transparency by first-term City Councilman Marc Whyte, who claimed in December that the city had been operating what he referred to as a “secret” second migrant facility, in addition to the Migrant Resource Center on San Pedro Avenue. 

In response, city officials refuted the facility’s categorization of a shelter, said it was a place equipped with food, water and restrooms where migrants could voluntarily wait for their flights, and never for more than 48 hours. 

The federal government reimburses San Antonio with operational expenses related to both the airport facility and the Migrant Resource Center, according to officials. 

There was a six-month stretch last year, from July to December, in which the City of San Antonio accommodated more than 20,000 asylum seekers each month. As of Sunday, a total of 23,599 migrants have arrived in the Alamo City so far in 2024. 

As a result, all migrant services at the Airport Transfer Center will be moved to the Migrant Resource Center, Walsh’s memo states. SAPD presence at the airport “will also be reduced.” 

Officials say the city was recently awarded $3 million in federal money to continue accommodating migrants but could seek up to $18.8 million more “to fund program operations through the end of the grant term,” which is Sept. 30, 2026.

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