Nonprofit seeking to open Houston facility for migrant kids sues city

September 14, 2018

The Austin-based nonprofit trying to open a facility to house migrant children east of downtown has sued the city of Houston, alleging a discriminatory, baseless and politically motivated campaign to prevent it from opening the facility.

Southwest Key Programs claims in the Sept. 14 lawsuit, filed in federal court in Houston, that the city is “manipulating” its permitting process, invalidating previously issued permits without due process and refusing to conduct inspections or issue new permits, alleging these actions are discriminatory based on some combination of the city’s opposition to federal immigration policies, interest in “political gain” or the race, color, national origin, ancestry, alienage or immigration status of the unaccompanied minors who would be housed there.

The lawsuit asks a court to grant Southwest Key monetary damages and to declare that it can proceed with its plans to open the facility.

“The city of Houston has ignored its own regulations, and past practices, and has knowingly misrepresented the facts to the state of Texas to deny Southwest Key a license to open the facility,” Southwest Key said in a statement released Friday. “City officials bent the rules and broke the law for the sole purpose of advancing the mayor’s political agenda.”

Southwest Key, which runs more than two dozen migrant child care facilities in Texas, Arizona and California, found itself at the center of a national firestorm in June when it emerged that the group proposed to hold 240 immigrant children between the ages of “0 to 17” at a building it had leased at 419 Emancipation Ave.

When news of the proposed facility became public at the height of the furor over family separations at the border, Mayor Sylvester Turner rallied numerous nonprofit, religious and political leaders to denounce the “unjust and immoral policy,” and indicated he would be happy to slow-walk the city permits required to open the facility.