Transport companies making a profit by ferrying asylum-seeking immigrants to San Antonio have agreed to donate a portion of those funds to a coalition of volunteers helping the immigrants leave Del Rio.
“We had a meeting on Monday, and basically this would be a donation from the transport companies to the Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition,” Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. said Friday, adding he can’t force the transport companies to comply since the county does not run the transition center for asylum-seeking immigrants being dropped off in Del Rio by the Border Patrol.
“I asked them (representatives of the transport companies) to get together and see if there was something they could do to help,” Owens said.
During the meeting Monday, the county judge said, representatives of the transport companies all pledged to make the donations, agreeing “to put in at least $5 for every person they take to San Antonio.”
Owens said there are currently three companies carrying the immigrants from Del Rio to San Antonio, Amistad, Aguila and Star Career.
“Amistad and Aguila have vans, and Star Career has buses,” the judge said.
“They’re hauling 100 to 150 people a day since May 11... I think out of the 3,600 or 3,700 people that have been transitioned through the center, I think there’s only been a handful of tickets bought for people. All of the other individuals had the capability to call and get some funds to buy their own tickets,” Owens said.
The county judge said he believed the transport companies need to make the donation because they are the ones making money from the situation.
“They’re charging $35 to $50, depending on the company, but if you’re talking $45 and you’re hauling 50 people, then you’re talking between $4,000 to $6,000 a day, every day,” Owens said.
He said even though the flood of immigrants has slowed to a trickle in the past few days, the numbers are expected to go up again very soon.
“We got a call yesterday that we have a group of Haitians that we know are coming,” he said.
Owens also said county representatives have met with representatives of Middle Rio Grande Development Council.
“They were actually going to use our model as a template, of what the coalition has done and what has been going on here because we’ve transitioned so many people out,” he said.
But the goal remains the same, Owens said.
“My job is to facilitate the work being done by the coalition, because they’re the ones running this show... Our goal is to facilitate getting (the immigrants) out of town,” Owens said.
Owens said he hoped at least some of the donations would be used by the coalition to ensure there is someone at the center on weekends and after regular business hours.
“They are volunteers, and they’re having some issues on Saturdays and Sundays because people, understandably, want to stay with their families. So if they need to pay somebody to be there, on weekends and after 6 p.m., just to make sure that if there are people coming in, there’s a place for them to stay,” Owens said.
“Our ultimate goal – and we’re all saying the same thing, that we don’t want the immigrants on our streets – is that the transportation companies and the coalition could come to some agreement so the coalition can receive some funds so they can operate and continue to operate, and the transportation companies can make a little bit of money and everybody’s happy,” Owens added.