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A Migrant Resource Center is in the spotlight after the Martha's Vineyard incident

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis flew dozens of migrants to Martha's Vineyard from San Antonio, the Migrant Resource Center in the Texas City has been pushed into the spotlight. Texas Public Radio contributor Yvette Benavides reports.

YVETTE BENAVIDES, BYLINE: On a recent evening, a Venezuelan family of six sits outside the Migrant Resource Center to pass the time. It's the first time all day that it's been cool enough to venture out. Bridgette (ph), the mother, who gave only her first name due to safety concerns, folds clothes. The youngest children eat small packets of Skittles candy. The father holds up his cellphone. And Bridgette explains what they're watching.

BRIDGETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BENAVIDES: She says it's a news story about what's happening with the people who were taken to another place. She's referring to some 50 migrants who were allegedly lured from right near here by a blonde woman named Perla and flown to Martha's Vineyard. Bridgette says they recently got a similar offer from a blonde woman while they were at a supermarket down the street.

BRIDGETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BENAVIDES: She says, the woman offered to pay for a hotel, give us food and clothes, stuff for the kids that would help us and then put us on a plane and send us to another place. Bridgette says she took a $20 gift card but rejected the flight because she doesn't want to miss her immigration court date in San Antonio. The Migrant Resource Center is run by the city and can serve 600 people a day. People who've already been processed by immigration authorities can stay for up to three nights. The staff helps people make travel arrangements and get medical care. They hand out travel bags with toiletries, clean socks and other essentials. At a recent press conference, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claimed that migrants in San Antonio were being treated poorly, that they were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: They were hungry, homeless. They had no opportunity at all.

BENAVIDES: However, Bridgette says her experience has been positive.

BRIDGETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BENAVIDES: She says, at least here they feed us and have treated us well. She says it's better than Venezuela.

BRIDGETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BENAVIDES: She says, in Venezuela, things are ugly. Officials at the resource center would not speak with us or allow us inside. However, city officials provided a statement that they're advising migrants not to accept rides or any other assistance from strangers outside, and to report concerns to staff. There's a strong police presence at and around the center. Migrants staying here must wear wristbands and have to show them each time they go in or out. Back out in front, in the cool evening air, a couple from Venezuela, Eduardo (ph) and Dali (ph), said they'd also heard about the woman recruiting migrants. They only gave their first names out of fear. They said that if the woman offered them money and a flight, they'd turn it down.

EDUARDO: (Non-English language spoken).

DALI: (Non-English language spoken).

EDUARDO: (Non-English language spoken).

BENAVIDES: Eduardo says, first, he's already heard how that goes. And, second, he can't be bought. Meanwhile, as we talk, more buses carrying more migrants arrive at the resource center - one short stop on a very long journey.

For NPR News, I'm Yvette Benavides in San Antonio.

(SOUNDBITE OF FELBM'S "MAKTENE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.