A Health and Human Services facility at 419 Emancipation Street, near downtown Houston would house illegal immigrant children, age 0-17, whose family are claiming asylum at the last minute when they're caught.
Last year, the building housed people displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
Until last week, it was supposed to be leased as a long-term low-level homeless shelter that would provide meals, and get long-term homeless off the streets by allowing them to sleep out on the lawn.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner opposes the child immigration detention center.
He said he's tried to stay out of politics to remain in favor with the feds, but this issue is different.
“This new policy of using the children to advance another policy, or trying to deter, is just not who we are,” said Turner. “The good people now, have to say, ‘we have gone too far’.”
He said he has no problem if this was families being sheltered together.
The Heritage Foundation's policy analyst David Inserra said current federal laws bind Border Patrol and immigration services as how children are handled when their adult family members try to enter the United States illegally. However, when immigrants are told they will be prosecuted for illegally crossing the border, that’s when they claim asylum.
“These folks that are currently being prosecuted and about separating children, these folks are illegally crossing the border,” said Inserra.
He added it usually takes a couple of years to have an immigration court date set and people aren’t likely to be found to show up.
Inserra said if we want to think about the children—the loopholes in laws are broken and need to be fixed so families are detained together and their cases quickly adjudicated. But, also people shouldn’t be sneaking into the United States illegally.
“If you’re actually fleeing from persecution, we have this method set up that you show up at a legal port of entry and it’s a different process. These people are trying to sneak in,” said Inserra.
Turner said he doesn’t want to wait for legislation to go through the process—not knowing how long it will take—he wants to President to reverse it right now.
Lastly, Turner said the Houston Fire Department has yet to inspect the facility, the city’s health department has yet to provide a food and shelter permit, and the state has yet to license the facility. He’s asking all to not approve the permits, and everyone to reconsider.