Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and like-minded community leaders are standing against a child immigration detention center in the city.
Turner said he would have no problem if it were for families to be sheltered together.
“We are opposed to the unjust and immoral policy of ripping apart immigrant families and taking innocent children away from their parents” Turner said Tuesday.
The building near downtown Houston formerly housed people displaced by Hurricane Harvey and, up until last week, was to be a long-term homeless shelter. Instead, it will now house illegal immigrant children.
Turner said he didn't give his blessing to this deal. In fact, he said, the plan was kept a secret from him.
Until last week, the building at 419 Emancipation St. was supposed to be leased as a long-term low-level homeless shelter that would provide meals and get long-term homeless people off the streets by allowing them to sleep out on the lawn. Turner said that was going to be a collaborative effort between the city of Houston and Harris County.
Children age 0-17 will be housed at 419 Emancipation.
“The new practice of separating immigrant children from their parents and guardians at the board violates decency and is not representative of our American values,” said Turner.
The Heritage Foundation's policy analyst David Inserra said loopholes in immigration laws need to be changed.
“Current laws bind their hands as to the way they’re able to handle children who are in their custody. They’re required to release the children. They can’t hold the children with the parents right now,” said Inserra.
He added the government doesn't condone the release of illegal people into the United States who will then disappear.
“But, until then we can’t just simply allow anyone who claims asylum with a child at the border to be allowed into the United States,” said Inserra.
It was confirmed this afternoon the building’s management will provide compassionate care and house children separated from their family.
Turner said he doesn't question their intent, but doesn't support the use of the facility for this purpose.
Turner added that he met with the US Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Refugee Resettlement this morning.
So far, Houston Fire Department, the city’s health department, and the state licensing department have not given permits for the immigration center.