Roughly 350 migrants from the Congo are expected to arrive in San Antonio in the coming days leaving the city scrambling for French-speaking volunteers.
"We didn't get a heads up," Interim Assistant City Manager Dr. Collen Bridger told KEN 5 on Thursday.
Bridger said the Congolese migrants began to arrive in town on Tuesday. They told Migrant Resource Center workers, they traveled with a group of about 350 migrants through Ecuador to the southern border.
"When we called Border Patrol to confirm, they said, 'yea another 200 to 300 from the Congo and Angola will be coming to San Antonio,'" Bridger said.
That included Masengi, a Congolese migrant, who didn't want to have his face on camera but told KENS 5 via Google Translate he arrived to the southern border as an asylum seeker.
He said he came to America for security reasons and said, "My family is staying in my country but with the help of the USA I can get it back."
But the language barrier is why the city is in desperate need of French-speaking volunteers, to help get many of these individuals to their final destination.
"If you speak primarily French and can come spend 6,7,8 hours, that would be really helpful," Bridger encouraged.
On Wednesday alone the migrant center saw a total of 450 people, Spanish and French speaking, during the day and housed 375 of them at Travis Park Church at night.
The city opened up the Frank Garrett Center to house the Congolese migrants for the weekend, but after that, they're not sure where they'll house them especially since they don't know how long some of them will be here.
"The plan was 350 of them would travel from San Antonio to Portland. When we reached out to Portland Maine they said, 'Please don't send us any more. We're already stretched way beyond our capacity," Bridger said.
"So we're working with them [the migrants] now to identify other cities throughout the United States where they can go and begin their asylum seeking process."
Catholic Charities of San Antonio is also responding to the Congolese influx. But Spokesperson, Christina Higgs, told KENS 5 they are struggling with finances. The organization requested additional funding from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop, a group they work with on their refugee program.
Higgs said they're spending thousands of dollars a week on bus tickets for many of these migrants Spanish and French-speaking to make it to their final destination.
"We’re looking at roughly $14,000 a week on bus tickets alone," Higgs said.
"We’ve been asked several times if we’re worried if the money will run out and we are. It’s obviously a finite resource. It’s very precious to those who are giving, but this is really the only way for is to go and have these funds earmarked for asylum seekers. To help them in this transition period and get them where they ultimately need to be."
If you are interested in donating funds you can do so at the Catholic Charities website.
If you are interested in helping the city of San Antonio as a French-speaking volunteer see the post below.