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Community leaders double down on opposition to migrant shelter despite letter from lawyers

VisionQuest hoping to place migrant shelter at Second Baptist Church

SAN ANTONIO – A letter sent to San Antonio city officials Tuesday from lawyers representing both the Second Baptist Church and VisionQuest, the company hired by the federal government to secure a new migrant facility claims the city would break the law if they don't allow the church to be rezoned.

"We're asking the city to reconsider opposing any denials of zoning approvals, so that will allow the shelter to operate…basically under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the act basically states that religious organizations are protected against the effects of improper land use decisions," said Jeffrey Bender, a VisionQuest spokesperson. 

RELATED: Community leaders, church members clash over proposed migrant shelter on East Side

But Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert pushed back against that assertion.

"I'm glad they brought up religion, because it allows me to remind them that the Ten Commandments says thou shall not kill," Calvert said. "And VisionQuest has had 12 children die under their custody. It allows me to remind people of Isaiah, 61, to set the captives free."

Calvert's office sent KSAT a list that includes the names of young migrants who have died at VisionQuest facilities between 1980 and 1994.

 

VisionQuest officials said they've provided a safe space for more than 100,000 migrant children over the last several decades. Bender did not deny past abuse allegations, however.

"They are rare, when they do occur we are required by the state and local government to report them immediately and then take steps to prevent those occurrences," Bender said.

Bender would not say whether they would sue the city if the church was not rezoned.

District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan released the following statement in regard to the letter.

"As it relates to the Second Baptist Church. We the city fully understand the mission of ministry, however; this is in relation to doing for profit business in the community center in which is used for community/educational purpose. Humanitarian work is a wonderful part of ministry but not for a profit. There is no political gain or influence related to this zoning case. It's definitely a matter of doing right for the interest of the children that need to be served and for a community to have genuine economic development."


About the Authors:

Deven Clarke

Deven Clarke was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he developed a passion for journalism after being asked to fill in as a sports anchor for the university's student-run news program.