The immigration debate continues in Connecticut after Gov. Dannel Malloy turned down the federal government’s request to house undocumented children at a facility in Southbury.
“I have to say to you that I don’t believe that these large facilities to mass folks is the right way to go,” Malloy said Friday.
Malloy said a large part of his decision was due to the insufficient size and safety of the facilities in question, which would have sheltered 1,000-2,000 undocumented immigrant children who have recently entered the country without adults.
“We were asked specifically about Southbury, and that place just isn’t in shape,” Malloy said. “We have lead problems, we have asbestos problems.”
According to a letter from Malloy’s Chief of Staff, Mark Ojakian, to State Rep. Juan Candelaria, federal authorities first contacted Malloy’s office July 3.
“The request for assistance was quite narrow,” wrote Ojakian. “Among other requirements, the agencies were seeking facilities that contained no less than 90,000 square feet of open space, which needed to be ready and available for immediate use. The facilities also needed to be ADA and NEPA compliant, with additional outside space as needed for trailers that hold showers, restrooms, and kitchens. As has been reported, GSA made specific inquiries into whether the Southbury Training School might fit these needs.”
He went on to say that the Southbury school and other vacant properties were reviewed and shown to be inadequate.
Candelaria said Malloy’s decision doesn’t seem to be an outright “no.”
“It’s not that the governor said no, it is ‘no’ to the Southbury facility,” Candelaria said. “[Are] there other possibilities that we can house these children?”
Although he hasn’t named alternative ideas, Candelaria is hoping for a creative solution.
“I know that families have actually come forward and said, ‘You know, we want to house these people,’” he said.
Massachusetts has approved two locations, but Malloy points out that one of those sites is on federal property. He said Connecticut will continue to cooperate but that Washington must also do its part.
“The Congress of the United States has an obligation to pass the bill, to appropriate the funds necessary to do this work,” Malloy said. “They also should pass comprehensive immigration reform. But with respect to our ongoing work with the federal government, we will continue to be a partner."