San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center could stay open another two years

If the city gets the federal funding it’s after, the facility could remain open through September 2026

SAN ANTONIO – Opened in July 2022 amid an “unprecedented” wave of migrants passing through the city, San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center could stay open through September 2026.

When Congress passed $650 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Shelter and Services Program earlier this month, $3 million was allocated directly to San Antonio. The city is applying to get another $18.8 million through a competitive process.

Assuming it gets the money, city executives say that would allow the MRC to stay open through its 2026 fiscal year, which ends in September.

“As long as there is funding for those migrants, we’re going to continue to operate,” Assistant City Manager Lori Houston told KSAT on Tuesday.

The migrants, typically asylum-seekers, can get food, a place to stay, and help navigating their next steps at the MRC. Though Catholic Charities, which runs the day-to-day operations at the facility, used to also help provide tickets out of town to migrants, Houston said it’s not doing that at the moment because of current federal rules.

While there was a 10% cap for buying tickets for the SSP funds in FY 2023, the Department of Homeland Security removed the cap for FY 2024.

The city has used federal money to cover its costs at the MRC. Catholic Charities also receives federal funding and was just allotted $10.9 million through the SSP.

Houston said she did not know how far Catholic Charities’ current funding would take its operations, and the non-profit did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. A spokeswoman had previously declined comment on a Monday story, too.

In early March, when it was still unclear whether Congress would approve additional money, the city council began discussing possible funding backup plans. There wasn’t any clear consensus on an alternative, but Houston said that conversation isn’t necessary now.

“Once the federal funding is out we may need to bring that discussion up. But if we are to be able to get the grant funding that we’re applying for, we are set through September 30th, 2026,” she said.

Most of the council has been supportive of keeping the MRC open, though at least some still think discussions about a backup plan are still necessary.

Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) and Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) both mentioned a desire to talk about backup plans during a Governance Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Hovering over all the funding talks is the fact it’s a presidential election.

“I mentioned that the budget meeting that I would love to see plans A, B, and C for funding that we know will go away if a different administration takes over,” Rocha Garcia said during Tuesday’s meeting, which she later said was meant to be inclusive of the MRC funding discussion.

Councilman Marc Whyte (D10) has been the only council member to suggest it’s time for the city to close the MRC, saying it is a public safety issue and a question of resource management. He has also said the MRC has acted as a magnet for people coming across the border.

However, Houston says San Antonio International Airport, not the MRC, is the real magnet.

“As migrants are coming forward, they want to come to San Antonio because they have destinations that are New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and they need to get to an airport that can take them to that final destination. And we have the largest airport that can handle that influx,” she said.

The city is in the middle of a lull at the moment, with 77% fewer migrants arriving in March compared to December. However, the city has seen ebbs and flows of migrants previously and Houston expects the numbers will pick up again.

According to the city’s migrant dashboard, nearly 3,600 people have arrived in San Antonio so far this April.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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