Proposed federal detention center in San Antonio draws mixed opinions

'This is ripping at the fabric of our communities,' San Antonio mayor says

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Eddie Latigo - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The idea of turning part of an East Side church into a detention center for migrant children is drawing mixed reviews from people involved in the San Antonio community.

While some say it would be good to provide a place to stay for those in need, others, including the mayor, are strongly opposing the idea of detaining children.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the idea of using part of the Second Baptist Church on East Commerce street as a federal detention center for migrant boys goes against the city's mission.

RELATED: Woman found guilty of having man robbed during sex-for-pay visit

"This is ripping at the fabric of our communities. (San Antonio) will not be an accomplice to establishing another for-profit facility that will detain migrant children indefinitely," Nirenberg said.

The proposal has other obstacles.

The church would have to be rezoned to accommodate a higher capacity to house the dozens of children expected to live there.

Nirenberg said the church leader has already put in a rezoning request.

RELATED: Andre McDonald indicted on charges of murdering wife, tampering with evidence

The reverend of Second Baptist Church was not available for comment Wednesday but some who live nearby said they support the decision to house children who may not have any other place to go.

"I can't stand here and claim to be knowledgeable in this situation. But, I do know that the church has a great facility over there that's being underutilized," Charles Davis, who lives near the Second Baptist Church, said.

"From a Godly standpoint, I can’t see me turning my back on any human being," said Alfred Campbell, who also lives nearby the church.

RELATED: County commissioners select BCSO veteran to replace Pct. 2 Constable Barrientes Vela

The Second Baptist Church would be paid for its use and there is the talk of that church being in serious debt.

But worship leaders from other congregations, like the Rev. Dr. Helen T. Boursier, who volunteers at Texas detention centers, said: "It's a gross moral injustice for a church to make money at the expense of children. No child should ever be detained."

Nirenberg said he is willing to help the church find other ways to pay its debts.

The zoning commission will meet and then advise city council members about the zoning issue, and then they will vote on it.

Correction: This story initially reported that the detention center would be operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In fact, it would be operated by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.