SAN ANTONIO — The Second Baptist Church of San Antonio is working to rezone its community center to house a migrant shelter. It's doing this alongside VisionQuest, a for-profit company that would operate the facility.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said San Antonio is a compassionate city that's opened up its arms to migrants crossing the border.
Through volunteer humanitarian efforts, they've given people the resources to move forward.
He said opening up a facility that keeps them staying put isn't the answer. "As people are coming through, seeking a better life, many of them are unaccompanied minors," Nirenberg said. "That's a process that needs to be resolved and it's not resolved by establishing more places for migrant children to be held indefinitely."
Second Baptist Church Pastor Robert Jemerson is out of town for the next few days. No one else with the church would speak on his behalf about the matter.
Cedric Hunter lives in the neighborhood behind the church. He thinks opening the migrant shelter is a good idea. He grew up going to church and has seen how supportive a faith-based community can be. "I think that would be a positive thing for everybody," Hunter said.
Nirenberg said the request for a zoning change has been submitted. It's up to the zoning commission and the city council to decide what happens next. "I understand and I'm sympathetic to the church's desire to generate revenue and be self-sustaining, but I am not comfortable with dropping a facility like this in the heart of our city," Nirenberg said.
Nirenberg said he would be happy to sit down with church leaders to go over alternative options. He joined District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan in her disapproval over the shelter.
“The children who go through these centers experience trauma at the hands of VisionQuest and will always carry it with them," Andrews-Sullivan said. "We are saying no to VisionQuest; we are saying no to migrant detention; and we are saying no to the abuse of our children.”