San Antonio braces for spike in migrants with looming end of Trump-era policy

Up to 1,800 people a day already passing through city’s Migrant Resource Center

SAN ANTONIO – In the five months since it opened, the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center has served nearly 92,000 asylum-seeking migrants as they pass through the Alamo City on their way up from the border.

But they expect the number will only go up with the end of Trump-era asylum restrictions coming as soon as next week.

“I don’t know if the spike is going to be immediately, but we are prepared. When we do - if we need to add more staff resources, we will, and we’ll increase our reimbursement requests from FEMA,” said Assistant City Manager Lori Houston.

The number of migrants the city and its partners help each month has already been going up over the past two years, rising from just over 300 in January 2021 to nearly 35,000 in November.

In the face of the “unprecedented” number of migrants, the City of San Antonio opened the MRC in early July, though Catholic Charities has operated it since October. Migrants who been processed by federal authorities at the border can get food, a temporary place to stay, and even help with travel arrangements.

The city’s share of the costs are reimbursed by the federal government, and on Thursday city council approved seeking reimbursements for costs it expects to incur in the first three months of 2023.

The number of migrants passing through San Antonio on their way up from the border has been shooting up for nearly two years. (City of San Antonio)

The city expects use of the MRC to surge with the looming end of Title 42, a public health rule invoked under the Trump administration that was was used to deny rights to asylum-seeking migrants more than 2.5 million times on grounds of preventing spread of COVID-19.

A federal judge in Washington ordered Title 42 to end Dec. 21 but Republican-led states asked an appeals court to keep it in place. The Biden administration has also challenged some aspects of the ruling, though it doesn’t oppose letting the rule lapse next week. The legal back-and-forth could go down to the wire.

EXPLAINER: Will immigration surge as asylum rule ends?

The daily number of people passing through the center ranges from under 1,000 to up to 1,800 already, one city official said, and Houston estimates the number of migrants coming through the MRC will jump by about 30% with the end of Title 42.

Houston said handling the surge of people will depend on being able to keep people moving onward to their destination. Many already have travel tickets when they arrive in San Antonio, she said, while Catholic Charities helps purchase travel for people who can’t afford it.

“It really depends on how many come without travel arrangements and how long they need to stay between their their flight leaving,” Houston said. “We’ve been able to work with Catholic Charities. They try to process as many tickets for those who come un-ticketed on a daily basis. And so we’re able to handle it right now.”

To free up space, though, Houston said they may need to bring migrants to the airport earlier - eight to 10 hours ahead of their flights, rather than within six hours.

Houston said “we try” not to have a limit on how many nights migrants can stay at the shelter but also that they “try” to process them within two days.

The city would not be opening another center, she said.

Catholic Charities President and CEO Antonio Fernandez was at the Thursday council meeting but refused to speak with KSAT, despite talking with another media outlet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.

Recommended Videos