CEO: Proposed Houston facility for 'childcare,' not detention center

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018
CEO: Proposed Houston facility for 'childcare,' not detention center
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CEO: Proposed Houston facility for 'childcare,' not detention center

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The leader of the program that manages shelters for the federal government met with Mayor Sylvester Turner Tuesday afternoon to discuss the possibility of opening a detainment center in Houston.

"I want to make it very, very clear. This is not a detention center," said Dr. Juan Sanchez during an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News. "We're licensed by the State of Texas, to run a childcare facility."

Dr. Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Keys,was accompanied by several high-ranking staff members from his non-profit, during the hour long meeting with Mayor Turner.

The Mayor was not convinced.

"There comes a time, when Americans, when Houstonians, have to say to those, higher than ourselves, this is wrong. This is just wrong," said Turner.

Turner, surrounded by elected officials, a large contingent of faith leaders and many non-profit organizations, took a stand against the family separation actions at the Texas border. He says he does not want the city of Houston resources expended to support those efforts.

"If we don't speak up, if we don't say, 'No.' Then these types of policies will continue, and good people can no longer be quiet in our society," said Turner.

Sanchez says his team's job is to take care of kids and that's exactly what he plans to do if the state decides to open up the Houston facility.

"Someone's got to take care of these kids. Someone's got to take care of the children, no matter what," Sanchez said. "We're an organization that has done this for over 20 years. We take care of kids, regardless of policy or whatever's going on politically. That's not our job. Our job is to take care of kids."

After the hour long meeting, neither the federal housing, human services officials or Sanchez would comment.

When Eyewitness News asked whether Sanchez feels like his $770,000 salary is justified in the wake of so much controversy, Sanchez and his team got on the elevator.

Turner made it clear that he would slow walk any permitting requirements the city still has to do before the facility is open. In addition, there is no current state license, that decision is still pending.

If approved, the facility will be located at 419 Emancipation Ave. in downtown Houston.

Officials say up to 240 children will be housed at the center, some being unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border alone, while others were separated from their parents.

State records show Southwest Keys already operates 15 similar facilities across the state of Texas, five in the greater Houston area.

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