A Look Around the 2-Building Emancipation Ave. Detention Complex Now in the Works for East Downtown

Inside the facility at 419 Emancipation that federal contractor Southwest Key Programs plans to use as a detention center for immigrant children, vestiges of the structure’s homeless-shelter past remain untouched. Christian nonprofit Star of Hope decked out the hallway of the smaller, 13,222-sq.-ft. building shown in the foreground of the aerial at top with both Old and New Testament scenes during its time on-site. It sold the property between Preston and Prairie streets in 2016 and moved into a bigger shelter on Reed Rd. near Hwy. 288.

In March, the complex wrapped up a 5-month stint as a temporary housing facility for 300 single adults displaced by Harvey. Its current owner (an entity tied to Dave Denenburg, the most recent renovator of Schlumberger’s former headquarters a quarter mile south) then leased it to Southwest Key, a nonprofit that operates facilities for unaccompanied minors in Texas. The organization plans to house as many as 240 children from infants to 17-year-olds inside — although most of the kids will be under 12, reports the Chronicle’s Lomi Kriel. That would make it “the first residential center in the nation detaining such small children without their relatives or other foster parents,” she writes.

A site plan shows how the 2 buildings sit on their 2-acre parcel, 3 blocks from BBVA Compass:


A courtyard including a playground and picnic tables separates the 2 structures:

It’s bisected by a covered walkway that links both buildings together:

That’s the smaller structure in the photo above, which views it from the west. Upon crossing through its entrance adjacent to the outdoor staircase shown below . . .

you’re greeted by these well-known characters:

They front a central hallway that runs roughly north-south. Head right and you’ll reach this pair of multipurpose rooms on the southwest side of the building:

A few office spaces sit off the hall on your way there, adjacent to some more holy holdovers:

At the opposite end of the corridor, there’s an even bigger flexible space ready to be overrun with juveniles:

Two rooms on this floor of the building are currently in use as storage spaces:

Upstairs, the main hallway overlooks the first floor entrance corridor, off-camera below the wall on the right:

Around the corner is where the courtyard’s outdoor staircase leaves you:

There’s also this plush space on the opposite side of the floor:

You can conduct your own virtual tour of the building here thanks to the owner’s use of Matterport, a 3D imaging technology used to show off interior spaces.

Harrisburg Blvd. abuts the its southeast-parking-lot side:

(The road undergoes a name change to Prairie St. as it heads west past the property toward Emancipation.)

In addition to the barbed wire fence shown above, there’s also video surveillance and a “security guard shack” on-site, according to the listing for the property.

Then there’s the 3-times larger, 40,425-sq.-ft. west building on the corner of Emancipation:

Inside, 80 bedrooms with 4 beds each are able to sleep 300 total:

A few of its other key features: 4 commercial laundry facilities, a computer lab, and commercial kitchens. The facility is up-to-date on all of its permits — according to public works spokesperson Alanna Reed — including a food service establishment certificate that allows it to provide meals in-house.

Here’s its first-floor lobby, which also functions as an auditorium:

Intake rooms provide spaces for private meetings:

There’s also a on-site health clinic:

Photos: LoopNet (west building); Matterport (east building)

Immigrant Kids Campus

42 Comment

  • Wow, we really treat foreigners right. It’s no fault of these kids that their parents are irresponsible and put them in this situation so we should take care of them while they are here. The consulates should be working hard to put these kids back with relatives in their native country as quickly as possible though. Not sure if they should ever be reunited with parents who are irresponsible enough to allow their kids to wind up here though. I guess their country of origin should decide all that when they get them back. Taking little kids illegally across an International border is not what I would define as good parenting. Seems like something you’d report a parent in the U.S. to CPS for.

  • For a Toddler Concentration Camp it’s perfect.
    This is NOT America.

  • I have a friend that has worked for this company in various capacities in Houston, the Valley and CA….and I’ve asked her many questions. They are brought to the border without parents usually and are treated very well…get med treatment at the Med Center (not Ben Taub etc.) and receive rec and daily education. The program is partially funded by the US Govt ORR agency and almost always receive Temporary Protected Status..bottom line…it sounds like a political game to me. Nice kids for the most part but one of the reasons they are allowed to stay is the ORR determines that their home country is not a place that they can return to, regardless of their personal story. For example, they have been using Hurricane Mitch as a reason for not being able to return to El Salvador. Hurricane Mitch happened in 1998.

  • It takes a special kind of bozo to compare these facilities to concentration camps. How disrespectful to the 6 mil murdered during the Holocaust.

  • I’m all for strict law enforcement, but it’s still unclear whether the separation of parents and children is purely punitive or practical. It might be practical so they are not housed with many adults, however OJ keeps saying it’s punitive and a deterrent.

  • ” Emancipation Ave Detention Complex” …. How ironic. This demonstrates just how skrewed up this country has become.

  • disgusting!!!!

  • These comments (as of 9:40 a.m.) are appalling. Are you seriously unable to grasp how terrified these kids and their parents must be? This is not who we are as a society. Yes, they ARE concentration camps—Nazi Germany is but one example of the many times one population has dehumanized and “concentrated” another in an internment facility. This is another such incidence, nascent as it is. There is no reunification plan for parents and children—that alone is terrifying. This is horrific, and it is happening HERE. Wake up.

  • @ commonsense: That would just be the Jewish figures for the Holocaust. Which when you read it is really both absurd and incomprehensible that man would do that as millions upon millions of other civilians perished during WW2. Most were Eastern European; some were caught in the crossfire; some were simply murdered because they were of Slavic origin. A stain upon human history the 30s and 40s were.

    Americans (who are largely geography and history ignorant) like to paint with a broad brush stroke even when no comparison could be made between circumstances.

  • We have become a massively disgusting country with equally abhorrent “leadership”. Home of the “free” and all men are equal…Yeah, right.

  • @Native Houstonian Is Concerned:

    I’ll say nothing more about this – for the record I do not agree that children should be separated from their mothers (much less their fathers) – but this issue is here. We’ve allowed it to come. Though I hesitate to label the comments here as “appalling” – that’s a strong word.

    The situation currently is beyond unfortunate. If I found my family under similar circumstances I’m not sure what I would do, or how I would react? I’d probably comply like everyone else for fear that lashing out or protesting too strongly would result in a worse situation for my family and myself? Terrifying.

  • This a midterm ploy of faux outrage at children being adequately cared for when their parents/family members illegally enter the united states with them in tow. I wish this wailing and gnashing of teeth was hyperbole but it is only further evidence of how unhinged a certain political segment has become.

  • turnin_basin: There is nothing faux about expressing empathy and concern for others; human decency demands it.
    Your cynicism and paranoia is disturbing. There’s something terribly wrong with anyone who attempts to justify this calculated cruelty to children and their parents. Doesn’t it bother you that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are solidly in your corner?

  • Please, empathy is not whats being expressed. The fake photos of caged children, comparing this to the holocaust concentration camps, and calling everyone nazis/racists/bigots who doesn’t hop on board with the manufactured outrage. Trying to tone down the rhetoric by calling it “expressing empathy” is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst. And you do polish off your statement nicely by the M.O. I anticipated, trying to insinuate something nefarious in association with neo-nazis in what is normal to those of us law abiding citizens who understand that when an adult individual is arrested for committing a crime with their children in their possession they are separated from them. Is this situation unfortunate? Yes. Do I feel badly for the children who have been thrown into this situation by their parents actions? Yes. This is a nation of laws, abiding by them is not that difficult. Putting your children in that situation is a choice. What other option do we have to ensure minors safety other than separating them from adults who may or may not be their parent? Consider that an undocumented adult with a child is not an easy situation and separating a child and putting them with other children is probably in fact the safest way to sort out the situation. That doesn’t meet the goal of generating outrage and seems entirely to reasonable so I assume you will not.

  • No matter how nice it is presented, this is still a monstrous thing our government is doing. The article stated the age range of children to be imprisoned here from infant to 17. Infant. Think about that. Someone is desperate enough to enter our country seeking asylum with an infant, then the baby is taken away. Not given to a trusted friend or family, but taken by an agent of the US government.
    I’ve never been more disgusted with our country.

  • @CS – whether it’s for practical or punitive doesn’t really matter to most human beings.. What it is is intentionally inflicting innocent young children with trauma to penalize their parents and to intentionally provoke outrage amongst the american public and to divide them. All I can say is god bless america.
    @j-griff – please, dial down the hypocrisy and ignorance. Not all kids were brought here for the same reasons. Some have seen their families killed, mothers beaten and etc. Yes, some asylum claims are valid and people will be killed if they return.
    Look, our country intentionally spent billions during the cold war sending weapons to kill and training terrorists / separatists to destabilize central american countries. Would it have happened without our help, sure, but based on America’s justice system we are fully culpable for any outcomes we may have indirectly had a hand in. A bit rich to see these old fogees whom were happy to waste taxpayers money blowing up other countries get all offended when we may have to spend some money accepting new workers into our country – which are needed anyways to support entitlements that the boomers have all but ruined by cutting gov’t funding that can’t be replaced.
    We could easily afford to take in these immigrants if needed. Hell, we probably could have re-developed the entire American continent for all the trillions we’ve ignorantly flushed down the drain by starting a never-ending war on terror.

  • @turning-basin … photos “fake” photos of kids in cages are supplied BY Donald Dump’s own Homeland Security Administration as outside media have not been allowed in to photograph. Your support of the inhuman action which is tantamount to psychological torture shows just what type a person you have or always have been.

  • No real comment I guess. Republicans being Republicans.

  • Jesus, “tantamount to psychological torture”. You can’t even make this stuff up. “Donald Dump”? Are you 5?


    Get a grip. People committing crimes get separated from their kids. People that are undocumented bringing minors across the border are making a calculated risk to put themselves in these situations. What a terrible person I must be to see a rationale behind the mechanism of law enforcement in this circumstance. The solution is more resources to assure that the undocumented adult is in fact the legal guardian of the minor(s) in their home country, reuniting the family when this is assured, and then rapidly repatriating them.

  • Nazi’s gassed the folks they held in primitive camps, 100 to a cabin, five bunk beds high – this facility looks like day care facility on lockdown, with WTF, washing machines and Xfinity ? Cry me a river – don’t come into this Country illegally and you won’t end up in a EaDo Club F’in Med.

  • The term “concentration camps” came to prominence during the Boer Wars when the British would force Boers and Black Africans into refugee camps separating men from their families as a counter insurgency tactic. The Nazis had both concentration camps and death camps. The concentration camps were originally intended to separate the Jewish population. Jews were severely mistreated in these camps, but it was not until Goering’s order to Heydrich to prepare for the “final solution” did the concentration camps become death camps. So, the “concentration camp” label is appropriate when criticizing the camps for detained immigrants’ children and is not a slight to the Holocaust.

  • Essentially this is a punitive measure and an attempt to prevent the creation of refugee camps along the southern border for migrants. It is, however, punishing children and is traumatic no matter how many pool tables and gameboys they get. The is a disgrace for the US and we need to do better. This will not deter migrants long term and just end up in international lawsuits against our country. We are a first world country and need a third way of dealing with this that doesn’t create this human tragedy. And no, it doesn’t do any good to blame the illegal immigrants as they are the little guy and often victims in their native countries. We are just perpetuating that victimhood.

  • @turning_basin Yes, “tantamount to psychological torture” …. I wish it wasn’t true but it is so no, I agree with you “no one can make this up” BUT it is happening and it is doing permanent psychological damage. I am sure you will sleep easy tonight knowing that you ardently support hurting children.

  • @CL: Let me guess, Mexicans bring in crime and drugs.
    Stay classy

  • You have only to read a few of turning_basin’s comments to see his priorities. Articles on public transit or adding meters to parking spaces will cause him to wail and gnash his teeth. Free parking gone—oh, my suffering!
    By contrast, the children of undocumented immigrants gets a yawn from him that’s well saturated with fake news (e.g., “fake photos of caged children”) and political talking points (e.g., “faux outrage,” “unhinged political segment”). This, apparently, is what’s called “conservative” these days.

  • Dana,
    Not sure how much traveling you did in the 70s, and 80s (and even into the 90s) into the coastal region of Mississippi, but they were still recovering from Camille. That hurricane rocked through in 1969.
    If the most powerful country in the world can’t get their poop in a group to recover from a hurricane in 20-25 years time, what hope does a country like El Salvador have?

  • Ah, yes, when there is no rebuttal you attack the messenger. Please give an example of wailing gnashing of teeth from my comments, as opposed to per say “concentration camps” or “you’re aligned with neo-nazis”. I find parking meters at a public park to be a blight, for shame! Doesn’t understand why people are against buses, the audacity! You’ll find my comments rooted in pragmatism and reality, not giddy pie in the sky nonsense, but please, as you were.

  • @turing basin – “People committing crimes get separated from their kids.”
    so you haven’t read the letter written by 75 former US Attorney’s today that says the exact opposite?
    @toasty – agreed, New Orleans has 3 x the annual GDP of El Salvador. New Orleans would still be a wasteland today if not for all the out of state/city taxpayer money dumped into it afterwards. Anyone want to quickly compare pre-katrina murder rate with el salvadors?

  • What seems to be getting lost in all this debate about what to do with people who enter this country without legal approval or through the asylum process is the absurdity and outdated-ness of our current immigration laws. If a person goes to a US Embassy or Consular office in their home country to apply to begin an immigration process, they are most often looking at 12-24 months just to get an interview for eligibility. If they do not have a college degree, a special work skill, or family already with permanent resident status, they are effectively at the back of the line. This translates to a wait of easily 7 to 10 years, if ever.
    So when people say, well these people should have come to out country legally, well, we have made it so difficult to do that that the result is disregard for the law. If the speed limit on Westheimer were set at 15 mph, people would not respect that and if they drove at 30, they would be “criminals”. Under the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama there were attempts to reform our immigration laws, but these broke down in partisan bickering. So really, we’ve just brought this situation upon ourselves by electing politicians who fail to do their jobs responsibly.
    Finally, you might want to say to yourself that you’re lucky to live in a country that so many people from around the globe WANT to live in. Not many people are crossing the border illegally to get into Bolivia, Botswana, or Cambodia for a better life.

  • turning_basin: if you were honest, you’d admit that I attacked your priorities—reinforced in your latest comment—and not you.

  • the argument shouldn’t be about separating families, the argument should be about why aren’t we providing asylum to families seeking refuge? Did we stop offering refuge when we stopped fighting communism? Why are we afraid to offer more people the same opportunity we have when they are seeking freedom?

  • @ houston_reader- really? you denigrated my position as “political talking points” and referred to my position on assurances that undocumented illegal immigrants are in fact the legal guardians of the accompanying minors that have illegally entered the country with as “gets a yawn”. Take a good look at the word honesty and look up insight thereafter.

    @joel – if you commit a crime and are in custody you are separated from your kids if they are with you. Try committing a crime with a kid in tow and being taken into custody. Your child will be placed in care until someone can take the child. This is standard. As it applies to illegal immigrants, the letter you refer to indicates that previously this was applied at the discretion of prosecutors. The “zero tolerance” aspect of the application is what differs now, not the letter of the law. Right or wrong.

  • @turning_basin, you are indeed correct, but I would note that the way families are separated at the border is vastly different from how they’re separated domestically. The extended durations of separation from any family and unknown surroundings induce the trauma, not just the act of separation itself.
    I’m just glad you agree that our judicial system is not applied uniformly and is quite often intentionally used as a tool against targeted groups for reasons different than what their crimes entail.

  • @joel you are correct, I agree that the law should be applied fairly. Those that break it should be prosecuted. The situation where adults who choose to illegally enter this country with minors in tow vastly differs from domestic separation where identification of a suitable surrogate for the person in custody may be easily achieved or as the minor is not illegally present in this country can be placed domestically. The current situation is not some dire humanitarian emergency. It at best is a safe way to protect minors in a setting lacking in identifiable relationships and at worst is too long a process which is why I think we should put more resources forward for speedy establishment of the relationships and repatriation with their country of origin as a family unit.

  • @turning_basin; you continue deflect or change your line of attack. “Gets a yawn” is my description of your persistent minimizing of the impact of separating children from their parents, and of your denigration of the commenters here who are appalled by it.
    But now that you’ve run into some push-back, you’re playing victim, claiming that I’ve made an ad hominem attack against you; and when that didn’t fly, claiming that I’ve misrepresented you. Wrong again. Your main argument here is that people who break the law get what’s coming to them. That is one of the main right-wing talking points to have persisted in this debate—right out of the mouth of the Homeland Security Secretary—but it simplistically ignores the fact some of the people affected here are not “illegals,” but are asylum seekers whose legal status has yet to be determined in court.

  • If this becomes a child detention center, it’s pretty nice.
    Can we organize a Grandma Brigade for these kids – cookies to bake, books to read, laps for sitting?!
    And how young are we talking? Do we need La Leche League?
    Holy Holdovers Batman! There’s a lot I want to know!

  • @houston_reader – My argument is consistent. You specifically name me in a post, go back and read again. I welcome criticism and debate but Should I apologize for trotting that old “right wing talking point” of following the law? I think not. What an absurd insinuation.

  • All boils down to intolerance. Some Swamplot readers still do not want to give gay people marriage benefits. “it’s against my religious beliefs.”

  • oh boy, and there’s the association fallacy I was waiting for.

  • This is the face of patriotism in 2018, huh? Gross.
    The same people who agree with this are the same people who get mad at the NFL National Anthem controversy. “This is America!”

  • Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    Guess that’s gone now.

  • The local Holocaust museum released a video with survivors comparing their experiences with those of these children. The Anti-Defamation League is also warning of parallels between these detention policies and the actions of Nazi Germany. Are these groups being disrespectful to survivors?

    We learn from history that we learn nothing at all.