Operator of detention center for migrant children sues city of Houston

An exterior view of the proposed detention center in east Houston.
An exterior view of the proposed detention center in east Houston. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Southwest Key Program, the operator of the Houston detention center for migrant children, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston.

The lawsuit accuses the city of "discriminatory and unconstitutional obstruction."

Southwest Key has been attempting to open the facility and claims the city has been changing its position on permits, after initially approving them.

The detention center was told in late July that it didn't have all of the necessary permits from the city.

There is a certificate of occupancy in place for residential use that was issued in early June, but that is for a hotel, motel or shelter, which isn't sufficient.

Southwest Key stated to city leaders in July that the intended use for the facility is for unaccompanied minors, which would require an institutional use certificate, and that's why the fire department and health department got involved.

Southwest Key said there was no timetable for getting the permits or how long it will take to open if they are approved.

Mayor Sylvester Turner Friday issued the following statement:

"The city is only interested in the safety, security and well being of children and will continue to enforce all building codes and regulations designed to accomplish that purpose. Southwest Key has repeatedly been asked to submit plans outlining the intended use of the facility to determine the proper occupancy use based on the International Building Code.

"They have failed to do so. Hopefully they will realize that they are not exempt and must follow the rules like everyone else. We continue to wait for them to respond. In the meantime, we will review the pleading and respond accordingly."