Groups file complaint against Texas city that banned refugee housing

Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:20pm EDT

A child's shoe is seen in the railway tracks in Atitalaquia, outskirts of Mexico City June 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

A child's shoe is seen in the railway tracks in Atitalaquia, outskirts of Mexico City June 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

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(Reuters) - Immigration rights groups filed a federal complaint on Tuesday against a Texas city they said violated civil rights laws by placing a ban on housing and processing facilities for Central Americans seeking refugee status after fleeing violence at home.

Texas Appleseed and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development complaint against League City, Texas, after it passed a resolution refusing to allow federal agencies to establish housing, processing and detaining facilities for refugees within its jurisdiction.

The move from League City, a southeastern suburb of Houston comes as a flood of children from Central America have come into the United States in recent months, creating what the White House and others have called a humanitarian crisis.

"League City has chosen a broken, misguided and extremely disturbing method to address a national humanitarian crisis," said Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, in a statement.

The groups argue that the resolution, passed by the city council on July 8, violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it discriminates against people based on race, color and national origin when determining who is eligible for federal assistance.

City officials were not immediately available for comment.

The city, in the resolution, said the volume of undocumented refugees is already bankrupting some Texas cities and counties by "overwhelming the local medical, educational, law enforcement and judicial system."

During the nine months ending June 30, more than 57,000 children were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them from Central America, doubling last year's count, according to U.S. government data.

The Obama administration has requested an additional $3.7 billion from Congress to address the situation.

The complaint comes the same day that officials in Escondido, California, some 20 miles north of San Diego, are expected to reject a bid by the U.S. government to open a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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