City of Houston claims existing Southwest Key facility operating with incorrect permit

ByKeaton Fox KTRK logo
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Houston says existing child detention facility permit is invalid
An existing Southwest Key facility near NRG has an invalid permit, according to the city of Houston.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The permit for an existing facility for children detained at the border is invalid, the city of Houston wrote Tuesday to the CEO of Southwest Key.

It's the latest move in the game of chess being played between the city and the company, who is working to open another facility for children near downtown Houston.

That facility, 419 Emancipation, has been caught in a tangle of red tape after the owner of the company announced its intention to open shortly after the beginning of President Donald Trump's family separation policy.

Despite the end of that policy, children are still being sent to similar facilities across the state, including three already open in the city of Houston.

During inspections for the new facility, city of Houston officials said the certificate of occupancy was invalid and needed to be re-applied for. Southwest Key officials contend that unless the city revokes the permit, it's still valid and they can continue to operate.

That led city officials to inspect all the existing locations for permit problems.

Tuesday's letter from the city to Southwest Key officials warns the facility at 1550 La Concha Lane could be "unsafe, dangerous and/or hazardous" for the up to 75 children that could be there.

The city's letter doesn't close the facility, however. It only asks Southwest Key to reapply for proper permitting, as it did in the 419 Emancipation facility.

Officials with Southwest Key contend they are very close to getting state approval for the new facility.

"We will review the latest request from the city and decide quickly our next course of action," said a Southwest Key spokesperson Tuesday night.

Dr. Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key, told ABC13 in June that the facility is not a detention center, but a state-licensed "childcare facility."

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