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San Antonio nonprofits helping provide model for city's role as a 'migration hub'

Despite being more than 100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, several hundred thousand migrants made their way to San Antonio during the past several years. The congregation of Travis Park Church has served as a refuge for them, in conjunction with the city and other area nonprofits.
The number of migrants arriving every month at the U.S. border with Mexico remains at record levels. The most recent numbers available from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol show that in November alone, the agency encountered 206,239 migrants. In December, that number climbed to 216,162 – an 11-percent rise from the previous month.
When the most recent surge at the border began, the city of San Antonio established a migrant resource center. That effort pulled together several area nonprofits, including Catholic Charities, the local food bank and Travis Park Church, among others.
Posted at 11:24 AM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 11:24:36-05

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — For more than 175 years, the congregation of Travis Park Church served as a refuge for all who seek their help.

“We've seen waves of crises and we mitigate those and manage those as we need,” said associate pastor Gavin Rogers, who is also director of Corazon San Antonio, its ministry that normally serves people experiencing homelessness.

In the past several years, they’ve taken on an additional mission.

“We started serving migrants and asylum seekers that were coming through San Antonio that have been either released from detention or have been given temporary asylum,” Rogers said.

The number of migrants arriving every month at the U.S. border with Mexico remains at record levels. The most recent numbers available from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol show that in November alone, the agency encountered 206,239 migrants. In December, that number climbed to 216,162, an 11% rise from the previous month. That is also a more than 20-year high.

In San Antonio, it’s added up to helping a lot of migrants—hundreds of thousands of migrants since 2019. At Travis Park Church, that number is in the tens of thousands.

“Since 2019, we've helped sleep over 33,000 people in the Sunday school classrooms and in different rooms here at the church and helped even thousands of more during the day get to the right places,” Rogers said. “And we're this small little entity.”

They are a critical one, though.

When the most recent surge at the border began, the city of San Antonio established a migrant resource center. That effort pulled together several area nonprofits, including Catholic Charities, the local food bank, and Travis Park Church, among others.

“The services that we offer here are a place to wait, Wi-Fi, food, showers, and transportation,” said the church’s migrant services director Alex Obregon. “There's a lot of emotions with it. I mean, I think even being here and doing the work, sometimes it can be hard to process yourself.

The result has been a relatively smooth process in handling their migrant surge and a far cry from how some larger cities have dealt with it. Without notice, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas have sent busloads of migrants to cities like New York and Washington, D.C., and it often overwhelmed services there.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently traveled to visit the border in El Paso.

“Our cities are being undermined and we don’t deserve this. Migrants don’t deserve this,” said Mayor Adams, D-New York City. “And the people who live in these cities don’t deserve this.”

Back in San Antonio, Rogers said he wishes more leaders would visit and take note of their efforts.

“I really encourage him to come and see how San Antonio is doing it because I think it's a better model than just going to border towns,” Rogers said, “because cities like San Antonio experience this type of traffic and know how to treat those in need, especially our siblings that are experiencing asylum.”