City Council approved the application for advanced funding for the center, anticipating an influx of migrants legally coming through San Antonio.
SAN ANTONIO — The Migrant Resource Center on San Pedro Avenue is here to stay, likely through the end of the year.
San Antonio City Council approved a request to apply and accept a FEMA grant of $6.5 million to operate the center from April through December 2023.
To date, the city has spent $13 million assisting migrants who are legally traveling through San Antonio seeking asylum. $4.7 million has been reimbursed and the city expects to receive additional reimbursement for services provided from July 2022 through December 2022.
“As long as there’s a surge of migrants coming across the border, then we need to prepare to help them and assist them to travel through San Antonio along to their destination,” Melody Woosley, director of the city’s Department of Human Services said.
San Antonio has seen a significant drop in the number of migrants passing through the city. According to city council documents, over 37,000 migrants arrived in the city in December 2022 compared to less than 5,500 migrants in February 2023.
The US Department of Homeland Security expects Title 42—a pandemic-era policy that allowed migrants to be expelled from the border—could end sometime this year. Around May is when city officials expect an answer on Title 42, but it’s unclear what the outcome could be.
“It’s really very up in the air,” Woosley attributes the sharp drop in migrants to changes in federal immigration policies.
The city says it pays for the lease and operations of the building, firefighters, and police presence. Non-profits such as Catholic Charities provide food and case management services to migrants.
The city says they had a higher cost upfront when the city opened and operated the center, but they say Catholic Charities primarily operates the center now.
The non-profit anticipates the center could be open through the end of the year. Antonio Fernandez, President and CEO of Catholic Charities did not say how much money the organization has applied for reimbursement.
“If more people come and we need to provide more services than we need to provide as much help as we can,” Fernandez said.
Councilman Clayton Perry initially had pause over the money and where it was coming from, but felt at ease with the city expecting a reimbursement.
“I’m disappointed we’re not getting payments as we’ve been told,” Councilman Perry also expressed disappointment in the federal government not figuring out its immigration policies. All council members approved the application, except for Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez who was absent.
City staff also say they are having additional police patrols in the area along with the Solid Waste department picking up trash in the area.
“The relationship with the neighborhood has improved,” Woosley says the city has not received as many complaints compared to when the center first opened in July.
“It would get a little hectic, there were a lot of people in the parking lot area, we got more foot traffic but nobody was ever disrespectful or anything like that,” Jacob Valdez, store manager at Alien Worlds is supportive of the center remaining open. He says migrants would often come looking for things such as hygiene products.
Although the center is a temporary shelter, Woosley says this grant application gives them the option to keep it open through the end of the year.
The vast majority of migrants who use the center are from Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua according to city leaders.