Pressure Mounts To House Refugee Kids

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAs New Haven’s mayor consulted her counterparts in other cities on a potential plan to house thousands of immigrant children, activists scheduled a rally by a building they say could handle the job.

Those were the latest developments in an issue that has gathered steam statewide since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy decided last week to turn down a federal request to house 2,000 undocumented children at the old Southbury training school (as originally reported by the CT Mirror). Malloy argued that the training school is in too poor repair to house so many children; he also argued that warehousing them in one facility is a bad idea.

The feds turned to the state for help with handling an unprecedented surge of unaccompanied children, 57,000 since October, across the southwestern border of the United States. Many are fleeing deadly gangs or traffickers in their Latin American homelands. Their arrival has presented the government with a humanitarian crisis. The federal Department of Health and Human Services is looking to send contracts of between $500,000 and $100 million to the states to help out.

Melissa Bailey PhotoActivists immediately denounced Malloy’s decision as heartless election-year pandering. So did a Sunday Register editorial. New Haven state Rep. Juan Candelaria, who chairs the legislature’s Black and Hispanic Caucus, issued a letter calling for the administration to reconsider. “The State of Connecticut simply does not own appropriate facilities that can accommodate these needs,” the Malloy administration wrote back.

On Monday Candelaria told the Independent that numerous churches have offered to house some of the children with individual families. Malloy has also directed his social-services chief to see whether any of the children currently in overcrowded federal facilities have relatives in Connecticut with whom they can stay.

“Other families are willing to help those children,” Candelaria said (pictured). “I think we should be helpful as best as we can. It’s the humanitarian thing to do. These children are here. We have to deal with the situation.”

Meanwhile, Harp administration officials, led by human services chief Martha Okafor and Chief of Staff Tomas Reyes, have been exploring possible buildings that could house some of the children here. Harp is also phoning fellow mayors to discuss suggesting a number of sites to the governor as alternatives to the training school, according to Reyes.

“The mayor is calling other big-city mayors who have a large immigrant community to see if we can figure out something that the city can do and then talk to the governor,” Reyes said. “I think the mayor believes that the governor was not saying no to helping the immigrants. He was saying no to the Southbury facility.”

The issue has presented a possible political bind for New Haven’s elected officials: They have a close relationship with Malloy, who needs another huge victory margin in New Haven this fall to win a second term in office. At the same time, New Haven is the epicenter of a well-organized activist movement that has produced groundbreaking immigration-reform policy both in the city and statewide.

Those activists are planning a 4 p.m. rally Tuesday at 60 Sargent Dr. calling on the governor to return to the feds with an offer to use other buildings in the state to house the 2,000 children if the Southbury facility doesn’t work.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoOrganizer John Jairo Lugo of Unidad Latina en Accion said the group chose the Sargent Drive spot to point out that the former Gateway Community College campus there sits empty. Gateway moved out of the 150,000 square-foot facility (pictured), which is far bigger than the 90,000-square-foot Southbury facility, to relocate downtown. Southern Connecticut State University recently took ownership of the building; it has not announced plans for it.

“We’re concentrating on Malloy—we think this was politics. This is a game,” Lugo said. “We’re not concentrating on New Haven. We’re doing it in New Haven because we want to prove to Malloy that there are a lot of empty buildings in Connecticut. The former Gateway Community College is empty. There are places in Hartford. There are places in Bridgeport. That building is evidence that there are enough buildings in Connecticut.”

Mayoral Chief of Staff Reyes said he hadn’t heard the suggestion of the former Gateway campus. Some have suggested using the old Goffe Street armory, but that probably would require too much repair work to get up to code, he said. (“We ought not to be putting young children [in buildings] that are not up to code, that are not habitable for humans.”) Another suggestion has been the former Job Corps building on Wintergreen Avenue.

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posted by: Don in New Haven on July 21, 2014  5:48pm

The answer to this problem is too easy.

Rep. Juan Candelaria should propose to find 2,000 Hispanic families willing to take one child each. In return for their hospitality, the family would receive a monthly support stipend from the Feds.

The kids would be with Spanish-speaking people and more easily integrate into our society. They may NEVER return to their home countries. If they are going to be here; make them comfortable and valuable to society.

Housing them in a huge building not intended for such accommodation is inhumane. This would be like putting them into a children jail and I totally disagree. Children must be properly cared for and anything other than family surroundings is unthinkable.

posted by: N'Zinga Shani on July 21, 2014  5:57pm

Reading comments by the “activists” forces one to ask -Exactly who is playing politics now? Is this situation being used for a political agenda? Has anyone given careful and thorough thought to exactly what will be involved in housing these children at the old Gateway Campus at Long Wharf?

Of course, it is humane to do good, and we should try to address human needs. But exactly how much practical thought has gone into this? How many bathrooms and showers are at the old campus?  Yes, there is a kitchen where meals can be prepared, but what about the other facilities that will be needed? Gateway was not a residential campus. Who will be the people to attend to the needs of the children?  Have we thought that through? Just a few of the questions to be addressed with the head before the heart responds.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 21, 2014  7:28pm

Is the federal funding in place? All this posturing, and creating political headlines, is just that. Individuals who are laying claim to being on the right side of how the state reacts to helping the children actually does nothing for the children. This calculated posturing, with many of those who want to “help” has no real way of being a concrete solution, because there has been no money allocated by congress to do the work that will be necessary to transport the children, house them, take care of their needs, and insure that their welfare is taken care of. The Governor made a mistake trusting his staff to draw up a response that to say the very least is callous. He should fire the lot of them as they manifested an ineptitude that is astounding to say the least. On the other hand, if this was not just a political statement, and they really would not want to attempt to help some 90 thousand children, who are coming to our border as refugees from violence, they may want to reflect on their own insights into the plight of refugees around the globe, and examine their own humanity, which they seem to have lost touch with.

posted by: wendy1 on July 21, 2014  9:11pm

There are empty buildings all over town including 194 Bassett St., 42 West Read St., and 2 church buildings on Liberty and Columbus, and 3 old catholic school buildings on Greene St.  I gave a list to Nemerson.  By the way the city so far is doing nothing about housing the homeless but I think immigrant children come first, of course.  I would be happy to give tours of all the large empty buildings.

posted by: robn on July 21, 2014  10:28pm

I’d love to think this is a moral and humanitarian gesture but unfortunately, it seems to be yet another case of CT democrats chasing the table scraps of temporary federal money in lieu of actually fighting for an up front proportional return of federal tax dollars to alleviate our horrendous state tax burden and debt. Red states are looting our coffers.

posted by: Irishmom2 on July 22, 2014  7:28am

I have lived in new Haven my whole adult life.  we can’t even take care of our own homeless problem, never mind the burden it would put on the schools, etc.  Let the families of these kids take care of them.  I already support much of New Haven as it is, seeing as we are a welfare city.  When are we going to realize we can’t be all things to all people?

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 22, 2014  8:44am

The problems of poverty and violence have driven these children to seek refuge and how can we turn away and pretend the problem is some one else’s?

At the same time, it would be welcome to see a mini-Marshall Plan for our citizens without homes.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the iron curtain came down, Clinton blew an opportunity to invest in meeting the needs of US citizens. Instead we “invested” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So how did that work out for us?????

posted by: FacChec on July 22, 2014  11:34am

Since the early 1900’s the U.S. has been involved with exploiating the natural resources of countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and San Salvator.

Through the centuries the U.S. have been involved with these countries internal and external wars, one like the Contras vs Sandinista induring the 1985/86 Regan era, where the U.S. supported the rebels against the government it called communist, supporting it with illegal sales of guns to Iran.
From Wikipedia:

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras.

But overall, in terms of providing relief for these mothers and children who are fleeing gangs, crime and murder, Wikipedia history reveils it may not be the safest country for these children to seek refuge.

In 2012 there were 4.7 murders per 100,000 persons in the United States, a 54% decline from the modern peak of 10.2 in 1980.[302][303][304] Among developed nations, the United States has above-average levels of violent crime and particularly high levels of gun violence and homicide.[305] A cross-sectional analysis of the World Health Organization Mortality Database from 2003 showed that United States “homicide rates were 6.9 times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that were 19.5 times higher.”[306] Gun ownership rights continue to be the subject of contentious political debate.

Countries with the highest murder rates per 1,000.

Top 10 highest rates since 1995[edit]
Top 10 Highest Homicide Rates by Country since 1995 [7]

Rank   Country   Year   Rate   Count
1   El Salvador
1995   139.1   7,977
2   El Salvador
1996   117.3   6,792
3   El Salvador
1997   112.6   6,573
4   El Salvador
1998   95.0   5,584
5   Honduras
2011   91.4   7,104
6   Honduras
2012   90.4   7,172
7   Honduras
2010   81.8   6,23

posted by: robn on July 22, 2014  12:10pm

Like New Haven has become a place for CT towns to discard their homeless, so CT will become a place for the United States to do the same with these children… if we invite them to do so. This has to be solved at a national level with all states participating proportionately; we either deport people crossing the border illegally or we as a country collectively house and care for them.

posted by: Aaron Freeman on July 22, 2014  2:07pm

I recall there’s a 4,000 bed residential facility in Newtown, if Southbury wants an alternative, but it’s designed to keep the inmates from the local playground, so Fosterage would likely be better.
Hispanics might become an academic bonus, to communities, if they learn to write and read in Latin, and encourage others to do so.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 22, 2014  2:16pm

In typical knew jerk reaction, the Harp House is bending to local politics to even get involved with children 2200 miles from here. Frankly, messengers Lugo et al show a remarkable lack of thoughtfulness and planning to just throw out possible sites to warehouse children. It is a logistical and moral nightmare. Given that city officials can’t control their own streets and budget, and effectively intervene in troubled families and youth, I’m wondering what the hell they’re thinking - or are they just getting on the happy train of group thought…“for the children” or worse, for the money.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 22, 2014  3:05pm

I am going to be a bit of a devils advocate on this. First I actually have many undocumented neighbors and I love them and they are part of our community….so lets be clear I am not a hater.

And you can bash me for saying this but at least I have the balls to.

But when we say children we are talking toddlers tweens or teenagers? Lets be clear on the ages because yes it does matter. From my understanding alot of the children are 14 to 18 year old males. In many of these county’s these are men. Many have been involved one way or another in gang type activity’s. Many also do not have age verification and can actually be older than the ages they are stating. And I personally can say no. And trust me I have thought long and hard about this. This is a big issue. I mean first we need to lock the boarders up now. Send people over a certain age home. And get them the help they need down their.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 22, 2014  4:09pm

I did find this to be an interesting read

posted by: FacChec on July 22, 2014  4:54pm

@posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 22, 2014 4:09pm

I did find this to be an interesting read

Yes that was an interesting opinion piece; but note that no national leader was quoted in the story, only Gov. Martin
O’Malley of Maryland was quoted.

Conversely, the drug problem will not be solved when the war on drugs is won by the U.S. It will only abate when the citizens of the U.S. quench their insatiable appetite for drugs and the U.S. profiteers switch their game plan to legalization

Another peculiar point is that millions of children remain in these South American countries with no reports fro the media of death, rape, or gang threatening. This somehow Strikes me as another american media slanted hype story.

posted by: Stan Muzyk on July 23, 2014  10:02am

Our city and town governments are already in a budget deficit mode.  Adding these children to our union-mandated teacher pay raises that force taxpayers to pay for annual budget deficits, is fiscal suicide. We must return to legal immigration. Our forefathers were not allowed to enter this country illegally. Everything illegal is now legal under an inept Obama administration and worthless U. S. Congress.  This is what happens when we allow God to be removed from our government. Our people must start CARING once again.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 23, 2014  10:17am

Maybe I miss read the piece. It does not say when the US wins the drug war. This is not a war that can be won. It says that until we stop the war and legalize the people will keep coming. The war on drugs is largely responsible for the 52,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived at the U.S. border since October, most coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The U.S.-led drug war has destabilized major regions of Central America – increasing murder rates, violence and corruption. Ending the drug war could help prevent a larger refugee crisis.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 23, 2014  12:04pm

lets get the facts correct. Before Obama became president we had 14 million undocumented residents in the US. We turned a blind eye on this for a long time….all for the sake of cheap labor. One of the main election talking points was how do we handle this, we can not send 14 million people packing. The Bushes and Regan all let this happen…before Obama came into office. At this point in time these 14 million have become part of America and a promise to fast track them to be legal was suppose to happen.

The cause of this fleeing Central America is the war on drugs (hmmm wonder who started that). It has destabilized the region. The question is what to do with the people that are coming. Or even better what do we do to make it so that they do not have to flee. Mean time we have 52,000 on the boarders and it is growing by the day. This by no means can be pinned on Obama. And god being removed from government?? ya lost me on that one.