Feb 28, 2024 - News

San Antonio mayor headed to Texas-Mexico border with Biden

Photo illustration of San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg  with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg will join President Biden at the border in Brownsville on Thursday.

Why it matters: The trip places Nirenberg in the national spotlight on one of the top issues on Americans' minds in an election year.

  • San Antonio is a key pitstop along the path of many migrants before they reach their destinations elsewhere in the U.S.

What they're saying: Federal support has allowed San Antonio to manage migrant arrivals in a safe and humane way so far, Nirenberg said Wednesday. But he called on Congress to do more.

  • "We hope with enough local voices out there we can implore the speaker of the House to bring debate to the floor on solutions that will have a direct, positive impact to our communities," Nirenberg said.
  • He said a recent Senate border bill, killed in the House, would have helped San Antonio.

Zoom out: Former President Trump will also visit the border Thursday, creating a national split screen on immigration with all eyes trained on Texas.

  • He's expected to deliver remarks in Eagle Pass.
  • Biden will meet with U.S. Border Patrol agents, law enforcement and local leaders, per a White House official.

The big picture: Americans consider immigration the country's single most important problem for the first time since 2019, recent Gallup polling shows.

Zoom in: Nirenberg told San Antonio City Council members in a Tuesday memo that he would reschedule Thursday's council meeting to make the trip to Brownsville.

  • Nearly 600,000 people have passed through San Antonio's migrant resource center, Centro de Bienvenida, since 2021, Nirenberg wrote.
  • The city and Catholic Charities has assisted them with the help of federal aid. Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave $24.5 million to aid the city, Catholic Charities and other local nonprofits through September 2025.
  • "Safety is our number one priority as we work to humanely assist asylum seekers as they travel to their host family's destination within the United States," Nirenberg wrote.

By the numbers: Migrant crossings dropped significantly in January and February after Biden rolled out new policies.

  • In January, 8,264 migrants arrived in San Antonio while traveling to their primary destinations, data from the city's migrant dashboard shows.
  • In February, that number was 5,364 as of Wednesday.
  • Monthly arrivals stood at nearly 26,000 people in December.

Between the lines: Nirenberg is often seen as a possible Cabinet nominee for Biden should the president be reelected.

  • Nirenberg's fourth and final term as mayor concludes in May 2025.
  • The Biden administration has previously asked Nirenberg to join the president in announcing heat safety measures for workers, and touted San Antonio's Ready to Work job training program.
  • Former San Antonio mayors are no strangers to Cabinet positions — Julián Castro and Henry Cisneros both served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under previous Democratic administrations.

The bottom line: Nirenberg's trip is a chance to advocate for more federal funding to assist migrants traveling through San Antonio, while placing him on the national stage in the immigration debate.

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