City of SA opens second migrant resource center

Additional facility opened to help asylum seekers from Africa

SAN ANTONIO – Services being offered at the city's migrant resource center downtown will be also be available at the Frank Garrett Multi-Service Center on the city's West Side. 

The additional facility that opened Thursday will be for asylum seekers from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo found by U.S. Border Patrol in Eagle Pass over the past week. 

"It's really kind of an urgent need for them to be in one place and for them to have those services provided here," said city immigration liaison Tino Gallegos. 

Gallegos said the second facility is especially important since the migrants all speak more or less the same language.

He said French and Portuguese speakers are needed to help provide translation services, but so are people who speak Lingala, a Bantu language spoken throughout much of the Congo.

"If you speak Lingala, you'd be very, very welcomed and very, very needed," Gallegos said.

Gallegos said unlike asylum seekers from Central America, the newest arrivals of at least 300 and still counting, do not have host families or sponsors in the United States. 

He said that's why most migrants are having to stay over a few nights until they know where they'll be going.

"We want to get them into a safe place because they're a vulnerable population. Many people take advantage of this type of population," said pastor Gavin Rogers, of Travis Park Church, which is  down the street from the migrant resource center. "We're trying to do our best to protect them from human trafficking, all these things that could happen."

Rogers said in the meantime, many of the newest arrivals have been staying at the church.

Gallegos agreed with Rogers, saying they don't want to send the immigrants to a place that is not prepared to receive them or give them the support they need.

Rogers and Gallegos said the city is also working with groups like Catholic Charities, the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, the San Antonio Food Bank, members of the local Congolese community and others in assisting the new arrivals. 

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.