SAN ANTONIO – Refugee resettlement agencies in San Antonio will have an added partner next month -- the Refugee Services of Texas.
“We’re the largest resettlement agency in the state,” said Russell Smith, its chief operating officer. “We’re in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Amarillo and Harlingen.”
Refugee Services of Texas is an affiliate of Church World Services, a faith-based global refugee resettlement agency.
After looking at where else Refugees Services of Texas could expand its reach, Smith said, “It made the very most sense for us to increase our resettlement work in San Antonio.”
Catholic Charities and RAICES have already resettled about 400 Afghan refugees since September following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
A spokeswoman for Catholic Charities said as of last week, it had resettled 367 of them, and is projecting over 800 before the end of the fiscal year.
RAICES reports the agency has resettled 55 so far but is expecting another 64 to arrive in the next few days.
Marisol Girela, who handles refugee resettlement at RAICES, said it anticipates helping about 650 more in the future.
Margaret Constantino, executive director of the Center for Refugee Services, said her agency saw only “a trickle” for a time, only to discover the reason was a measles outbreak where many of them were being processed at military bases.
“Everybody was treated. They’ve gone through multiple medical checks,” Constantino said, adding they’ve also been vaccinated against Covid-19.
After the quarantine was lifted, Constantino said, “We started seeing a major influx of Afghan evacuees. And, by the end of October, we had seen over 400.”
Refugee Services of Texas expects far fewer, Smith said, only about 100 over the coming year after it opens its San Antonio office next month.
“We’re just going to be like an extra resource, an extra place for welcoming Afghans and then eventually other refugees in San Antonio,” Smith said.
But Smith said he expected the number of Afghan arrivals to grow.
He said several thousand more Afghans are still on military bases in the U.S. for screening and processing.
Smith said landed in countries now known as “lily pads.”
“They are in the process now of moving those people to the U.S.,” Smith said.
Constantino said it isn’t surprising many of them are choosing to come to San Antonio which already has a large Afghan community.
“People are going to come here to be close to their relatives or their fellow countrymen,” she said.
Already known as Military City, U.S.A., Constantino said San Antonio has welcomed all those who helped the U.S. military throughout America’s longest war.