Democrat Governor Rejects Plan to House Immigrant Kids in Conn.

Image: Democrat Governor Rejects Plan to House Immigrant Kids in Conn.

Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 06:21 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, flatly rejected a federal request to temporarily house up to 2,000 immigrant children from Central America at a mostly vacant facility built for developmentally disabled adults, angering advocates who called the denial a "missed opportunity."

Patrick O'Brien, assistant director of the state's Bureau of Assets Management, emailed federal officials that the property was too small —  and a mess, the Connecticut Mirror reports.

"The vacant property that the state of Connecticut has is too small to accommodate your needs . . . and is typically in a state of disrepair to the point where a certificate of occupancy would be difficult to obtain," O'Brien wrote to the U.S. General Services Administration's New England regional offices.

"Indeed, many existing structures are beyond salvage and require environmental remediation and demolition."

The federal government was seeking to use vacant surplus property no longer needed at the Southbury Training School. About 300 developmentally disabled adults receive therapeutic, residential and other support services in buildings that have remained in use, the Mirror reported.

"Any new and significant activity at Southbury would be intensively scrutinized by a multitude of interest groups and organizations, and would face time-consuming challenges," O'Brien wrote.

Latino activists Wednesday blasted the rejection.

"This is a humanitarian crisis, and we are saddened that this was a missed opportunity to take a leadership position to help people seeking refuge," Werner Oyanadel, of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, told the Mirror.

The Mirror reported that federal officials first contacted the Malloy administration July 3 about a short-term lease to house, feed and provide medical care for 1,000 to 2,000 children who have entered the country through Mexico.

The Border Patrol says 57,525 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S. border from October 2013 through the end of June, a nearly 500 percent increase from the same period in the previous year.

John Jairo Lugo, an immigration advocate with New Haven's Unidad Latina en Accion, said the Central American children are fleeing violence in their native countries —  and blamed the United States for aiding countries like Honduras with poor human-rights records.

"These are people who are the product of U.S. policy in Central America," he charged.

Connecticut is the latest locale to push back against a federal effort to find temporary housing for the children pouring across the Mexican border illegally until the children's deportation cases are processed.

Nebraska Republican Gov. Dave Heineman has complained that federal officials are refusing to give details about whether there are plans to send children to public schools or to provide any potential costs to taxpayers.

"Governors and mayors have the right to know when the federal government is transporting a large group of individuals, in this case illegal immigrants, into your state," he charged.

A plan to place immigrant children in Greece, N.Y., was also axed after residents protested, as was a plan by the Department of Health and Human Services to put undocumented children at a former Army Reserve facility near Westminster, Md.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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