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Security in place at San Antonio's Migrant Resource Center in days after controversial DeSantis flight

Outside the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center
Yvette Benavides
Outside the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center

In the days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had dozens of migrants flown from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the Migrant Resource Center found itself in a national spotlight.

A family of six Venezuelan migrants spoke to TPR outside the facility on Tuesday. After a day that saw temperatures near 100 degrees, it was finally cool enough in the evening to sit outside and pass the time.

Brigid, the mother, folded clothes, and the father watched Spanish language news on his phone. The youngest children ate small packets of Skittles candy.

When they were asked if they heard the story about Martha's Vineyard incident, the father held up his cellphone. That was the news story they listened to at that moment.

A woman named Perla reportedly recruited about 50 migrants under false pretenses for the trip to Massachusetts, and she had approached this Venezuelan family too.

They asked that TPR use their first names so as not to interfere with their legal asylum claims.

Brigid recalled that her family was at a supermarket nearby when the woman gave them a $20 gift card and promised them food, a hotel stay and assistance to their relocation flight. They declined her offer because they had a pending immigration court date in San Antonio.

The flight was part of a Florida initiative to transport migrants out of Texas and into Democrat-friendly communities -- a project DeSantis has championed and celebrated. Critics have characterized the most recent flight as a political stunt to embarrass President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, DeSantis claimed that migrants in San Antonio were poorly treated. He claimed they were moved up from the border, abandoned in San Antonio and left to fend for themselves.

"Those migrants are being treated horribly by Biden. The were hungry - homeless. They had no opportunity at all. ... It was volunteer offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions because it's our view that ... the border should be secure," DeSantis said.

However, Brigid said that her experience in San Antonio has been different. Her family has been treated well, and they’ve been fed and given a place to sleep.

She explained that they left Venezuela because there are no jobs and food is very expensive for families making very little money in the midst of an economic collapse.

The Migrant Resource Center provides asylum seekers with service referrals. They also help them make travel connections. Migrants are also provided transportation and overnight accommodations at shelters. They receive travel bags with basic essentials.

"The San Antonio Migrant Resource Center was set up as a safe and welcoming place for migrants traveling through San Antonio to their host city destination. As a City, we believe migrants seeking asylum should be treated with kindness and respect," said a City Spokesperson.

"Staff at the Migrant Resource Center is advising migrants not to accept rides or any other assistance from strangers outside the MRC," it continued, "and to report any concerns to the MRC Staff. Signs are also posted at the MRC providing the National Human Trafficking hotline."

Security is tight at the Resource Center. Only migrants with wrist bands are allowed through the gates manned by police but they may come and go freely. People who work in nearby businesses told TPR that the security measures were a recent development.

Eduardo and Dali also sat outside the Center. They also told TPR they had also heard about the woman recruiting migrants.

As they spoke, more buses drove into the Center with migrants. Eduardo said that every day people arrive, and every day people leave, making San Antonio a short stop on a very long journey.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.