San Antonio City Council OKs $141,000 Boost to Help Migrants Amid Influx

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Jeancarlos Alejandro Jolon Morales (center) rests with his children (from left) Ilsi Alessandra Jolon Rubin and Belinda Carolin Jolon Rubin.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Jeancarlos Alejandro Jolon Morales (center) rests with his children after arriving at Travis Park Church.

City Council unanimously approved $141,000 in emergency funding Thursday to help the thousands of asylum-seekers passing through San Antonio – some of which is a matching grant contingent on corporate and individual donations.

The money will go directly to the San Antonio Food Bank and Catholic Charities, starting with $86,000. And for every $2 the charities raise in donations, the City will give $1 – up to $55,000. The goal is to raise $110,000 in private donations.

The Greehey Family Foundation donated $50,000 Thursday to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which is managing donations to help asylum-seekers stopping in San Antonio. City Manager Erik Walsh and his executive team also contributed $2,500. Donations are being accepted here.

The federal government informed City officials on Monday that San Antonio should expect to see an influx to the already record number of migrants traveling through San Antonio, legally seeking asylum in the United States. Most stay one or two nights before traveling on to host homes or their families elsewhere across the country.

The City has been working with nonprofit organizations since late March, helping 8,000 migrants who needed assistance as they passed through the city on their way to other U.S. destinations. In his memo issued Wednesday, Walsh said that 339 City employees also have volunteered their after-hours and weekend time at the migrant resource center organized by the City, as well as at Travis Park Church, which has provided nighttime shelter to migrants. But that model is no longer sustainable, the memo said.

Families rest near one another before getting ready for bed.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Families rest near one another before getting ready for bed at Travis Park Church.

“What started as a short-term situation has now escalated to a longer-term problem,” Walsh wrote. “At the beginning of this effort, Travis Park Church sheltered, on average, 50-60 people per night. Over the last week we have noticed a steep increase in the number of migrants being sent to San Antonio and now are averaging 120-150 individuals sleeping at the shelter each night.”

San Antonio is not the only place to feel the effects of increased numbers of migrants seeking asylum. A small border town in New Mexico declared a state of emergency Wednesday after U.S. Border Patrol agents dropped off 170 migrants Monday. Deming, New Mexico, has about 15,000 residents, and became the third border community to declare a state of emergency over immigration, Reuters reported Wednesday. Meanwhile, immigration courts around the nation continue to work through a backlog of more than 850,000 asylum cases, the Washington Post reported earlier in May.

The City first opened the migrant resource center to give migrants a place to rest or seek other assistance earlier in the spring, when more asylum-seekers than usual were released by CBP at the U.S.-Mexico border and dropped off in San Antonio. Since then, Travis Park Church has housed more than 3,000 migrants overnight before they continued to their final destinations.

Travis Park Church Associate Minister Gavin Rogers said the church has contingency plans for an increased number of migrants passing through the city.

“If we see an increase, we’ll open up more rooms, more cots, more bathrooms, and manage that with volunteers and staff … keeping that rolling so we don’t have temporary migrants all around the streets of San Antonio,” he said.

This is not the first time the City has considered using funding to help migrant families. In 2017, San Antonio allocated $150,000 from its emergency fund to provide legal services for low-income and vulnerable residents, including migrant and immigrant communities. Outgoing Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) led the effort to secure that funding. He told the Rivard Report that it’s the City’s responsibility to take care of its visitors and make sure migrants are not sleeping in the streets or at the bus station.

“These are folks who are going about the process in the exact legal way that is outlined by our system,” he said, so politics shouldn’t play into the City’s decision to help. “I don’t think we should get any protest even from those with a more conservative bent.”

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio also has helped asylum-seekers in San Antonio for many years, CEO and President J. Antonio Fernandez said. He has led Catholic Charities in San Antonio for six years, and in the Chicago Archdiocese for another six before that. He said he is familiar with struggling to make ends meet while helping those in need, but not like this recent influx of asylum-seekers.

“We don’t see an end to this,” he said.

Catholic Charities has spent more than $117,000 since late March sheltering and purchasing bus and plane tickets for migrants stopping in San Antonio, Fernandez said. The San Antonio Food Bank has provided about 11,000 meals and 34,000 pounds of supplies in the same time frame, while community and Interfaith Welcome Coalition volunteers have given more than 4,000 hours of their time to help migrant families.

The $86,000 going to the nonprofit organizations will allow them to continue feeding and sheltering asylum-seekers through the end of June. But if there is no funding after that, Fernandez said, he’s unsure what the next step would be.

Women and children who just arrived from Dilley Detention Center walk from San Antonio's Greyhound bus station to Travis Park United Methodist Church in October 2018.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Women and children who just arrived from the detention center in Dilley walk from San Antonio’s Greyhound bus station to Travis Park Church in October 2018.

“From the Catholic Charities perspective, I’m concerned,” he said. “I’m worried. If we keep going at this pace, Catholic Charities will have no money at the end of summer and more people will keep coming and coming.”

Nirenberg said he supports providing City resources to help manage the influx of migrants and that the City is looking for federal reimbursement of all expenditures. San Antonio is a compassionate city that supports the vulnerable, including asylum-seekers, he added.

“When people need help, our community steps up,” he said. “This is the right thing to do.”

Travis Park Church intends to continue providing its services no matter what, Rogers said.

“Our stance is the same – we’re serving our neighbors just like we’d like to be served,” he said.

Fernandez stressed that the families entering the United States – mostly from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – are seeking a better life for their children. In April, the Rivard Report spoke with parents who made the journey to the U.S. because of dangerous conditions in their home country.

“This is families crossing the border for a better life — not just for the American Dream, but to be able to live in a free society where they feel safe and can have a better life for their children,” Fernandez said. “I think anyone would try to do the same thing for their children.”

Community members interested in donating can do so on the Catholic Charities’ website, or call Christina Higgs at 210-222-1294.

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick contributed to this report.

18 thoughts on “San Antonio City Council OKs $141,000 Boost to Help Migrants Amid Influx

  1. What program are you going to rob to take care of this growing unsustainable problem? How many more San Antonians are going to have to do without because we already cannot take care of them? How many rooms has the mayor opened up in his own home? How many sanctuary city supporters have opened up their homes?

    Meanwhile, US citizens are losing their homes because of inflated property values and taxes they cannot shoulder.

    • RC, thank you for your thoughts. However, remember that property taxes are assigned by Bexar County and appraised by the County. So the city can work with the county to lower, but it is not just the city. What is happening right now with the immigrants is not a local problem, it is multi-factorial, local, state, national and international collaboration is needed urgently. Unfortunately we do not have the national leadership to solve the issue, demeaning the population will not get us the solutions that we need. Question for all of us to ask: What would you have us do?

      • The comment about the property and other taxes was demonstrating that people cannot afford increases in life expenses, etc, and while expected to make do with a lot less. There are programs that are in place that are overwhelmed by citizens, and yet, the mayor is suggesting to take from those programs to deal with this.

        With that consideration, as well as the low return rate of when they are supposed to either A) return for their hearing or B) self-deport, my suggestion is that they sit on the other side of the border until their application for asylum gets processed and approved. It is not fair to nor the responsibility of our citizens to have to bear the burden of these people.

        • Is it anymore fair to the people that are residents that reside on the other side of the border? And my understanding is that this is a policy for some of the groups seeking asylum, they have to wait in Mexico. It seems we are all in this together.

    • The left and democratic leaders state that this is a manufactured crisis by the current administration and does not warrant funding to address the issues. Following the same logic, additional funds should not be needed anywhere because there is no crisis at the border and therefore there is no crisis further inland.
      City leaders are going to ask for federal reimbursement from the democrats? Why should they agree to pay since it is their firm belief that there is not a crisis at the border. If they do pay, they will have to acknowledge there is a crisis after all.
      They are also not going to provide funding for more judges. It is my belief that the democrats want these asylum seekers / illegal immigrants here in the US to provide more democratic voters in the upcoming elections.

  2. RC, you are right. San Antonio should not take money away from other programs for the needy.

    I called Catholic Charities at 210-222-1294, above. I am taking my donation to 202 W French located between Woodlawn and Ashby.

    Adjusting the number of asylum applicants in our federal laws is the democratic way to reduce the number of asylum applications. The democratic process takes longer than Presidential policy, but this helps protect our democracy and our rights.

  3. They are legally requesting asylum. They are most likely waiting for a court hearing.
    Address the issue. There is a need for more judges to review these cases quicker to see if they do qualify for asylum and can stay here or will be sent back to their country.
    Think about your Christian principles-feed the poor, heal the sick, help your brother, etc
    We are all God’s children.

  4. The terms migrants and asylum seekers are misleading. This is an illegal immigration crisis. Asylum seekers can apply in their own country for asylum or in the first border they cross—which is not the U.S. Economics is not a valid reason for asylum—and that is what most of those entering illegally at the border are giving as their reason to leave. People are illegally entering our country. Children are being used as pawns to gain entry, women are abused on the journey, dangerous people -mostly young,single males-are being allowed to enter our country. We have a legal immigration system and it needs to be used. This crisis has been manufactured by drug cartels and other nefarious groups. (The drug cartels are giving passage at a high cost—and when the border gets overwhelmed in one area it gives them unobstructed passage to bring in drugs in another area.) This crisis has been made worse by the lack of action from Congress. Just today BP said if they can keep people 45-60 days and get more judges they could handle this problem. Just the fact that CC is contemplating funds should tell you this has a negative impact on our city budget and the services it offers.

    I believe in Christian principles-but even those recognize borders. This is a very generous country, in spite of becoming more secularized. (And it is interesting to note that it is the Christian, not the secular groups that are taking on helping! Where are all the progressives and open border people to fund helping?) This is a very generous city but we are now neglecting our own citizens and diverting funds bc illegal immigration has overwhelmed the system. Imagine the impact on the rest of our city—schools, police, workforce, hospitals, housing, etc.

    What would you have us do? Allow detention for 60 days, get more judges, hear the cases -not just the low bar credible stories-and immediately deport those who should not be here is a good start. And yes, a wall in certain areas—it works all over the world. We are a generous, welcoming sovereign country that is being taken advantage of.





  7. Since when did passing through mean a layover for days or longer. I don’t understand why the busses aren’t continuing on to their final destination. Last time I got on a plane, train or bus they didn’t include city layovers for DAYS unless weather related. Let’s be perfectly clear, these are illegal aliens and or fraudulent asylum seekers who just because they have been given a court date are now magically being referred to as LEGAL, there’s nothing legal about any of them, this is a play on words so not to upset the citizens/taxpayers of San Antonio. As a taxpayer/property owner I’m so sick and tired of getting nickel and dime to death by our city leaders. As soon as the tax dollars fall short of meeting the city’s obligations to its citizens, our leaders will be purposing more record breaking amount bond requests to fill the coffer. I’m a very reasonable, compassionate man, but I’m tired of having my hard earned money taken without regrets to the sacrifices I’ve made just to make ends meet, keep a roof over my head so I can pay my taxes. When will our city leaders realize their main obligation is to the citizens/taxpayers of this city!

  8. AGC, your right about the BAD,however, the real issue in property appraisal is that commercial property owners are not required to indicate what the real value of their commercial is when they sale it. Therefore, BAD is just guessing the value of the property.
    You would have to go to the state to change the rules and that will never happen because the politicians consider it “creating jobs and economic development”.

    It would be fair to residential property owners and it most likely decrease residential property tax.

  9. What this city is supporting is against the law. We are not a sanctuary city as a matter of fact aren’t we currently engaged in legal proceedings on this very status? As a taxpayer I do not support any monies diverted from the the citizens of this city. I am done with the current city council members….you do not represent us, you have made that clear. And I will make my vote clear as well.

  10. It’s interesting that when I called Catholic charities to make a donation for those people who lost everything in fires in California I never got a response. I called at least a couple of times and no one ever called back. But here they are giving thousands of dollars to people who are illegals. I am a second-generation American and my grandmother from South America came here legally and never asked for a cent.

  11. Thank you good citizens of San Antonio. “I was a stranger, and you took me in.”. I will be sending a donation in support of your work. You have remembered that when you do it unto the least of these your brethren, you have done it unto our Lord.

  12. Interesting that none of the money that the SA City Council approved is going to Travis Park United Methodist Church who seems to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting taking care of the people from south of the border being brought to SA.

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