May 11, 2023 - News

San Antonio awaits more migrants as Title 42 border policy ends

Illustration of a suitcase with a sticker shaped like Texas.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

San Antonio is preparing for an increase in migrants passing through the city as the Title 42 border policy is slated to end today. It allowed authorities to swiftly expel migrants at U.S. land borders.

Driving the news: Title 42 will expire as the country's COVID-19 public health emergency declaration comes to an end.

Why it matters: An increase in migrants can place a strain on the resource-strapped local nonprofits and churches that look after them, connecting them with transportation, food and shelter.

Catch up fast: For more than three years, the U.S. has used Title 42 to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico or their home countries without a chance at asylum, Axios' Stef W. Kight reports.

  • The policy is officially a public health order, but U.S. border officials have relied on it to manage overwhelming numbers of border crossings.

Context: Title 42 has been in court battles since President Biden tried to end it last year. Back-and-forth rulings have left San Antonio leaders in the lurch as they have prepared multiple times for the policy to end.

Zoom in: Catholic Charities, which operates San Antonio's MRC Centro De Bienvenida in the Shearer Hills neighborhood, is planning for an increase in people arriving daily once Title 42 expires, president J. Antonio Fernandez tells Axios. The group has been hiring staff in preparation.

  • People typically stay at the center for three days but some may stay up to five days, Fernandez says.
  • The center provides basic needs such as food and clothing.

By the numbers: The center served about 3,900 people last week, per the Express-News, and had already reached capacity.

  • Last month, more than 12,000 migrants passed through the center, according to a joint news release from Democratic U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro and Greg Casar.

Details: Catholic Charities took over operation of the center from the city in September. The group will receive nearly $32 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in anticipation of the influx of migrants, Castro and Casar announced last week.

  • The city and Catholic Charities have run the center with federal reimbursement since it opened.
  • The city will get about $4.7 million in federal funding to assist migrants, and the United Way of San Antonio will receive about $1.6 million.

Flashback: The city opened the Migrant Resource Center last July to keep up with the increasing number of migrants traveling through San Antonio.

  • The presence of the center led to concern from some neighbors about crime.
  • But city officials have said the center is needed for people who briefly come through San Antonio. Without a central processing center, more people would be left to roam downtown or the airport, they have said.

How it works: Migrants who are processed through the center are here legally and have approval to travel within the U.S. They may stop in San Antonio for a couple days before catching a plane, bus or train to take them elsewhere.

Zoom out: An estimated 150,000 people in Mexico are headed toward the U.S. as Title 42 ends.

What's next: The Biden administration is replacing Title 42 with its own strict asylum policy that will automatically reject asylum seekers who illegally cross into the U.S. without first seeking protection in a country they traveled through.


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