Immigration

Children Younger Than 16 No Longer Included In Southwest Key’s Proposed Houston Shelter

The Austin-based non-profit has updated its permit request with the city.

The location of a new Southwest Key facility slated to house migrant children.

A proposed Houston shelter originally slated to hold unaccompanied migrant children ranging from infants to teenagers is now seeking only to house 16- and 17-year-olds.

Southwest Key has updated its permit request and no longer plans to house small children at a shelter near downtown Houston. Once repairs are made within the building consistent with city rules, Southwest Key will be issued the certificate needed for it to open the shelter, the city announced.

The shelter will house more than 200 immigrant youth, Southwest Key said in a statement to News 88.7.

The non-profit’s application ignited a political battle last year as city leaders spoke out against the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families apprehended along the southern border. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he opposed the shelter because it was planning to house young children who were separated from their families.

Turner’s administration originally denied Southwest Key’s permit request as officials claimed the facility did not meet requirements for an institutional permit needed to house young children. That spurred a lawsuit against the city in which lawyers for Southwest Key argued the denial was a “discriminatory and unconstitutional obstruction.”

Now, Southwest Key has revised its initial permit application, saying it only wants to house 16- and 17-year-olds, which qualifies it for a residential permit instead. A spokesperson for the non-profit could not say whether the group planned to drop the lawsuit.

Still, the city said a January inspection of the facility revealed problems in meeting the fire code, but once those and a few electrical and plumbing repairs are made, city officials will issue the permits needed for the shelter to open.

Southwest Key said it has addressed outstanding inspection issues and is awaiting approval of the permit.

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Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is a senior producer at Houston Public Media. He cut his teeth at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, MA and at WBUR in Boston. His work has appeared on various public radio programs and podcasts including Texas Standard, Here and Now, and Marketplace. Davis is a graduate...

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