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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's critics, and even some of his fans, have blasted his administration for its seemingly hypocritical response to a request from the Obama administration to use the Southbury Training School to house up to 2,000 children from Central America. The Malloy administration's response was, essentially, "Sorry, but we can't help."
It had all the appearances of a hard-hearted and politically calculated move. Seeing thousands of these children coming into Connecticut could persuade some on-the-fence voters to ditch the governor in the November election. The response was more striking because it was not coming from some anti-immigration reform Republican, but from a Democratic governor who has been among President Obama's strongest supporters and a leader in helping undocumented immigrants, including signing legislation to allow them to obtain driver's licenses.
Yet - when it came to the specific request from the U.S. General Services Administration - it is hard to see how Gov. Malloy could have said yes.
While the training school houses 300 developmentally disabled individuals with a range of medical needs, the intent of this and past administrations has been to gradually phase out its use. Much of it is in disrepair and it's expensive to operate. It could not be prepared for occupancy in a timely fashion and the costs would be enormous and impractical, given the goal to eventually close the place. Putting the children alongside the current residents would present other problems.
As for other institutional options, there are none - not surprising given a state policy dating back three decades to move away from institutional care.
Yet the criticism of the Malloy administration's response to federal authorities was fair, albeit overwrought in some quarters. It was fair because Gov. Malloy's people offered no alternatives. They seemingly wanted the feds to take the hint and just go away.
Stung by the criticism, the Malloy administration's stance was softened Friday. In a letter to state Rep. Juan Candelaria, Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian said state officials will work with their federal counterparts to facilitate the placement of unaccompanied minors with relatives in Connecticut and with other families who have expressed an interest in helping.
The administration should have given that humanitarian response when the Obama administration asked for help two weeks ago.