SAN ANTONIO — With his Venezuelan ID, recently donated shoes and clean clothes, Adri Fernández is trying to live his American dream on his own.
Unlike the families and unaccompanied children who have been the main groups immigrating to the United States over the past decade, Fernández is one of the single adults arriving with no family to turn to or contacts who willing are to help him get back on his feet after being released from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Fernández, who is currently awaiting scheduled hearings regarding his asylum application, ended up in San Antonio because immigration officials decided he should go there. A stranger drove him nearly 200 miles from Laredo, Texas.
“When I arrived they started asking me at immigration where I was going. In all sincerity, I said I have no relatives here and I have nowhere to go,” said Fernández, 26. “So they gave me an address and they said, ‘Does San Antonio work for you? I told him yes.”
“I don’t have a dollar to live on,” he said, among 15 other migrants in similar circumstances who spoke to Noticias Telemundo Investiga.
But Fernández said he trusts “the American dream, which is to work and have your back.”
Fernández’s first appointment with ICE is August 25 and his first hearing before the immigration judge is on March 5, 2024, both in San Antonio. A no-show could result in a decision to deport him without his day in court.
Home is where ICE sends you
Catholic Charities, part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, estimates that about half of the migrants it serves are single adults with no ties to the United States. The organization said it has seen more such arrivals in recent years.
According to the American Immigration Council, single adults were responsible more than the half of all border arrests in the past year. This increase followed a lull in single adults crossing the border from Mexico at the time of the Great Recession, a trend that lasted for about a decade, followed by a surge in migration of unaccompanied minors and families with children.
Asylum seekers awaiting their scheduled hearing generally arrive in cities like San Antonio with documents from ICE that say “currently residing in” and an address.
A review of the addresses by Noticias Telemundo Investiga found that they generally belonged to non-profit organizations or US contacts provided by the migrants; Some contacts did not want to take responsibility for them or did not answer when a reporter called the appropriate numbers.
An ICE spokesman in San Antonio said the cities where migrants will be sent and the specific addresses will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
“Individuals released from ICE custody have transportation arrangements in place and a temporary support plan prior to their release,” the ICE spokesman said in an email.
The spokesman said ICE is coordinating with local nonprofits to provide migrants “temporarily shelter, food, water, clothing and transportation after their release,” but gave no details on the situation in San Antonio.
Fernández, the Venezuelan asylum seeker, said the address he was given was an office building that housed a non-profit group, who told him they could not offer shelter or assistance at the time.
“They tell me – they have no help for the Venezuelans at the moment,” he said.
He found his way to a square in downtown San Antonio where other migrants congregate and where a church gives them a place to sleep at night.
Catholic charities said they found several of their San Antonio addresses appearing on migrants’ documents, though neither the government nor asylum seekers have previously asked for permission to use those addresses.
“We’ve heard of people showing up at our agencies without notifying them first, but it varies from place to place. The Department of Homeland Security is making that decision, but we don’t know exactly where that’s happening,” said Patricia Cole, national spokeswoman for the Catholic charity.
Catholic charities in San Antonio direct the migrants to shelters, hotels or churches in the city. It helps buy migrant tickets, but demand is high and payment poses a challenge, the group said.
“We don’t leave anyone on the street. We send them wherever we can,” said Antonio Fernández, president and CEO of Catholic Charities in San Antonio. But he added that the group, which receives government grants and private donations, cannot provide long-term housing.
The organization will be in charge of a new emergency shelter and, according to Fernández, expects to receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to operate it.
San Antonio receives about 600 migrants a day, and about 500 of them need shelter for at least the first night, said Roland Martinez, public relations manager for the city of San Antonio. Around 185,000 migrants have passed through San Antonio since April 2021. Most travel on to other parts of the country.
For weeks, migrants released by ICE at the border or in San Antonio have been arriving at the airport or downtown Greyhound bus station.
On July 7, San Antonio opened a makeshift center to welcome those who have recently arrived for a few hours while awaiting their connections to other parts of the country.
The city characterizes it as “a safe and welcoming place for migrants transiting through San Antonio.”
After two weeks, according to Noticias Telemundo, The center had to be closed because it was operating at full capacity and the city government was demanding more help from the federal government.
At the Christian Assistance Ministry in San Antonio, two brothers lined up with people who had recently migrated — along with city dwellers who are currently homeless — for a take-out breakfast, a shower and clean clothes.
Executive Director Dawn White-Fosdick said she believes the increased number of people arriving in the US has exceeded charitable resources in border towns, which is why they are being sent to San Antonio.
Try to start over
As an alternative to detention in private prisons, asylum seekers who have been released while awaiting their appointments at the Immigration Office carry surveillance cellphones. But the mobile devices cannot be used to make phone calls; They may only be used once a week for one photograph required by immigration authorities for surveillance purposes.
Many people who have crossed the border are struggling after journeys that have robbed them of what they hoped would carry them through their new beginnings in the US
Several people reported how their savings were used up, their money stolen or their mobile phones stolen when crossing the border.
With few resources, they take to the streets at dawn to try and get a local resident to hire them for several hours to do construction work, house repairs, or other odd jobs.
“I went out this morning with the goal of looking for a job,” said Nicole, 22, from Venezuela. She couldn’t find one when she went out that morning. “I see this part is going to be difficult.”
She shares job tips and hourly wages she’s heard about with Julián from Colombia, who also had no luck finding a job among the shops in the tourist area of San Antonio that day. “They told me my papers weren’t good for work,” he said.
A goal but trying to get there
Other recently arrived asylum seekers said they have been reassigned to other places like Washington, DC or Orlando, Florida while awaiting their immigration hearings, however They had no way of getting there from San Antonio.
While waiting for a shower at the Christian Assistance Ministry, Jordan and Mendoza Alvarado, two Venezuelan brothers, ages 30 and 20, looked for a way to get to their assigned address. They had to raise about $20 to travel to Houston, their first stop, where they will try to raise money for the next ticket. They also looked for shoelaces to replace those that were not returned to them after they left immigration detention.
When they found a phone they could use, they tried to reach the number listed on their documents. But the brothers couldn’t get past the automated English-language menus when they called the nonprofit. They didn’t yet know if they would have a place to sleep when they reached their destination, Orlando.
Regardless of what would happen next, Mendoza Alvarado said they would continue on their way.
“I have no problem,” he said. “We keep fighting.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/migrants-asylum-seekers-no-shelter-ice-immigration-rcna39815 These asylum seekers find themselves on the street while waiting for the immigration hearing