Humanitarian emergency expenditures

Photo by Atzimba Morales

Portable toilets outside the Chihuahua Neighborhood Facility, where a local humanitarian group has established a transition center for processing asylum-seeking immigrants. City officials said the city has spent more than $18,000 in dealing with aspects of the immigrant crisis. Of that total, $720 has been spent to pay for a cleanout service for these portable toilets.

The city has spent more than $18,000 to deal with the ongoing immigrant situation, but county officials said they have not spent any county funds.

City Manager Matt Wojnowski on June 18 released an itemized list of the expenses tallied by the city, following a request for those numbers from the Del Rio News-Herald.

The city’s involvement in the immigrant situation began when the city council voted to lease a portion of the Chihuahua Neighborhood Facility, 1401 Las Vacas St., to the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition.

That move came about after Border Patrol officials informed county and city elected leaders and administrators they would be releasing families of asylum-seeking immigrants into the community after they were processed at the Border Patrol station.

Most of the families being released at the time were citizens of Central American nations like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They had been taken into Border Patrol custody and requested asylum in the United States.

Once they are processed by the Border Patrol, those immigrants may remain in the United States legally until their asylum claims are heard by an immigration judge, an event sometimes more than five years away, Border Patrol officials explained.

The asylum-seeking immigrants are also required to have a sponsor in the U.S.

The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, a group of volunteers mostly affiliated with local churches, began and continues to assist the immigrants in getting out of Del Rio. The transition center they have created at the Chihuahua Center serves as a place where the immigrants can make contact with their sponsors and arrange for transportation out of Del Rio.

Wojnowski in an email, wrote the city as of June 7 has spent a total of $18,962.35 as a result of the immigrant situation.

More than half that amount, $9,896.13, has been spent on the salaries of city employees dealing with aspects of the immigrant situation.

The city manager also reported $6,400 was spent on replacing an air conditioning unit at the Chihuahua Center, and $1,695.10 was spent on repairs to the building.

“The building repairs have been primarily for fire code/safety purposes,” Wojnowski wrote in his email response, adding, “The revenues and expense for the coalition leased portion (of) the building are not included in this amount.”

Wojnowski said the city has also spent $720 on a cleanout service for portable toilets at the facility, and $251.12 for safety and janitorial supplies.

The city manager noted the Border Patrol “has released about 100 migrants a day” at the Chihuahua Center where they are assisted by the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition.

Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr., also responding to a request from the News-Herald, said Monday, “The county has not spent any money” on the immigrant situation.

Owens said one county employee, Rowland Garza, the county’s emergency management coordinator, has spent a portion of his time working on issues related to the immigrants.

He also noted the county has placed a generator at the center for the Salvation Army food truck.

Owens said he, County Commissioner Pct. 2 Juan Carlos Vazquez and County Commissioner Pct. 4 Gustavo “Gus” Flores have donated fuel, and he said Vazquez and Flores have donated food they purchased.

He added he, Commissioner Pct. 1 Martin Wardlaw and Commissioner Pct. 3 Beau Nettleton have also made cash donations to the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition.

“But all of these funds are personal funds. No county funds, no taxpayer dollars, have been used,” Owens said.

Owens noted the food Flores brought in to the Chihuahua Center recently was from the South Texas Food Bank in Laredo.

“It was not food that would have gone to our constituents. (Commissioner Flores) did go pick it up and facilitate the process,” Owens said in a text message.

(1) comment


These numbers seem a bit skewed. You are including city employees' salaries that would get paid no matter what, right? Unless they were specifically hired to work on immigration matters. And then $6400 for an a/c on a city building and $1695 to get up to fire code just seems like regular maintenance. So, that brings to total down to about $1000. Seems like we could be doing more to help our fellow humans.

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