Update: Cornyn confirms migrant aid reimbursement approved for McAllen

Updated at 5:38 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Sen. John Cornyn confirmed Tuesday that $109,312.51 will indeed be reimbursed to the city of McAllen for migrant care expenses.

“South Texans have been generous with their time and resources during this humanitarian crisis, stepping up and filling fill a role traditionally performed by the federal government,” Sen. Cornyn said in a news release. “I’m glad I could assist the City of McAllen in getting this funding released.”

MISSION — The national board charged with dispersing financial reimbursements to entities that cared for migrants seeking asylum along the southern border has approved $109,312.59 in reimbursements for the city of McAllen, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said on Monday.

When the first round of funding — from a pot of $25 million authorized by Congress this summer to reimburse governments and non-government organizations in border states — was distributed in the fall, McAllen was not among the recipients.

Since 2014, cities such as McAllen and nonprofit groups like Catholic Charities have temporarily taken in asylum-seeking migrants who federal authorities drop off downtown as they await their immigration court hearings.

This process has played out for years in other border cities as well, with governments and nonprofits spending money on migrant aid, but the legislation passed this summer only allowed for reimbursement applications for costs incurred during the first six months of 2019.

During the initial announcement this fall of the funding disbursements, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley received $601,557.88, the Salvation Army Corps Center in McAllen received $108,371.25 and the United Way of South Texas received $2,599.52.

Monday’s announcement comes two weeks after the national board for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program convened a meeting at the United Way of South Texas in McAllen in hopes of figuring out smoother methods of dispersing the funds. The board, chaired by Michael Lee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has more than $20 million in remaining funds to distribute, Cuellar said.

“We’re still waiting here in McAllen. A little frustrated,” McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said on Monday. Rodriguez said he has also been told by the national board that McAllen has been approved. But the city hasn’t heard a peep since, Rodriguez added.

“We’ve emailed them, we’ve called them,” Rodriguez said, before listing the names of the various city employees who have tried following up, “including me.”

Cuellar, however, in an interview before a news conference in Mission on Monday about grants to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was clear: the board told him they have approved McAllen’s reimbursement.

“We’re waiting. We’re waiting,” Rodriguez said when asked on Monday. “The needle hasn’t moved.”

While the city waits for this round of funding, Cuellar said there will be a subsequent round that will allow applicants like McAllen and Catholic Charities to submit for a broader range of reimbursements that the first round did not allow for. The first round mostly allowed applicants to just apply for refunds on money spent towards temporary housing and transportation.