Understand: Immigration Crisis

How the immigration crisis is affecting San Antonio

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Rob Garza - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The large number of families and children seeking asylum at the U.S. Mexico border in recent months has created an immigration crisis that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of families at detention centers and massive backups in the immigration court system.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, from October 2018 to June 2019, the number of families coming to the U.S. reached more than 390,000.

Washington Post immigration reporter Maria Sacchetti said the majority of the immigrants are coming from Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

“Countries with a long history of violence, poverty, hunger,” Sacchetti said. “People are fleeing from harm.”

She said the majority of short-term detention centers were not built for families and unaccompanied children. They were made for adult men who can be deported in a couple of hours.

Once families are released from the short-term centers, they are taken to long-term facilities, which are also at full capacity. 

There are laws that protect children and families seeking asylum from being turned away at the border, which is a time-consuming process. This has the immigration court system backed up and detention centers overfilled.

Sacchetti said the Trump administration is pushing Congress to make it harder for migrants to seek asylum. She said immigration advocates believe the administration could be doing more to speed up the process. 

“They say that what the Trump administration should do is add judges, add asylum officers and people who can process these people,” Sacchetti said.

The high volume of migrants is spilling into San Antonio.

In March, the city created the Migrant Resource Center to help the immigrants arriving in San Antonio after they're released from U.S. Border Patrol custody.

The center is like a layover, providing families with meals and a place to sleep while they are in between travels as they await their asylum court date.

The Migrant Resource Center said that, since March, it has helped nearly 26,000 migrants. The Food Bank has provided 60,000 meals, and more than 17,000 migrants have slept at the Travis Park shelter.

Melody Woosley, director of human services for San Antonio, said the Alamo City is a compassionate city and helping the migrants is in the community's best interest.

“If we were not providing this type of assistance, we could have thousands without shelter or a place to stay, potentially on the streets, and that is something that is not healthy for the community,” Woosley said.

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