It's been five months since San Antonio opened its Migrant Resource Center downtown, and in that time tens of thousands of asylum-seekers have spent time in San Antonio before moving on to their final destinations.
In the months since San Antonio started this operation they've learned a lot and refined the process of helping asylum-seekers with travel, while also offering them hot meals, clean clothes and a safe place to sleep for a night or two, said Roland Martinez, the City’s Department of Human Services public relations manager.
Volunteers used to do intake for all of the migrants on paper, by hand, and help them with their travel arrangements the same way. Now, they use laptops.
“Before with the paper format they were doing a good job keeping track of the migrants here, their travel arrangements, departures,” Martinez said. “But now it's a little easier with this laptop system.”
It's also easier because the number of migrants passing through San Antonio has dropped significantly in August. In June and July the city was processing several hundred people a day. Now it's about 100. Martinez said after a summer surge of asylum seekers from Africa and Haiti, it's mostly back to families from Central America.
Since March 30, the city has processed around 30,000 people, at a cost of around $265,000. They expect to get some of the money back from the federal government.
"The city has been anticipating the application and the reimbursement process, keeping great track of expenses here at the center, along with our partners, so we're working together to get that application done before the deadline for reimbursement," Martinez said.
Even with the reduced number of people, there are still too many asylum seekers making their way to San Antonio for the MRC to close down, so they've asked to be included in the city budget to keep it open until at least the end of the year.
"$333,000 would be for the city to continue to run the migrant center, for the three hot meals here during the day, expenses related here at the center such as personal hygiene items, fuel for the vans, (and) for the Travis Park Church as they provide the overnight shelter," Martinez said.
Martinez added that without the center, asylum-seeking families would still be brought to San Antonio from the border. They'd still be left on that corner by the bus station. Most still wouldn't speak the language. They still would struggle to make travel connections, and, he said, too many families would be stranded downtown and at risk.
Martinez said the Migrant Resource Center continues to be a better option not just for the migrating families, but also for people who live in the city.
The success of the center is evidence that San Antonio is a compassionate city, Martinez said, and he praised all 35 city departments for coming together to reflect the city’s core values of teamwork, integrity, professionalism and innovation.
If you would like to volunteer at the center, you can sign up through the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. If you’d like to make donations, you can do so through Catholic Charities and the San Antonio Food Bank.