Last week, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy gave the cold shoulder to the Obama administration’s request that he make the state’s residential facility at Southbury available for temporarily housing one to two thousand migrant children from Central America. Various technical reasons were provided to the feds by Patrick M. O’Brien, the assistant director of the Office of Policy and Management’s Bureau of Assets Management, but he let the cat out of the bag when he wrote, “Any new and significant activity at Southbury would be intensively scrutinized by a multitude of interest groups and organizations.”
Malloy, you see, is in a tough reelection fight this year, which means leaving no interest group behind.
“That was a pretty quick, ‘no,’ amigo,” wrote NPR talk show host Colin McEnroe in his normally humorous Sunday column in the Hartford Courant. After excoriating Malloy for not caring about kids as real as the children gunned down in Newtown, whom the governor has featured in a campaign ad touting his response, McEnroe turned to his readers.
Whom do you listen to, when it comes to moral choices? Jesus? If it’s Jesus, you’re sunk. There is nobody in history more unambiguously clear about our obligations to the poor and vulnerable…And if you’re any kind of spiritual person, you pretty much have to see these kids as a postcard from God.”
On Tuesday, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, which includes the archdiocese of Hartford and an array of other religious organizations, protested the governor’s decision. On Wednesday, Malloy let it be known that he’d spent an hour on the phone with Obama Administration officials discussing the situation and was looking into another state-owned facility as potential housing for the migrants.
Could it be that religious considerations changed the political calculus in the governor’s office?
For my money, the outcry to care for the child migrants is the most hopeful development in spiritual politics in America in many a long year. It’s not a case of the usual suspects arrayed in the familiar adversarial positions. Here we’ve got Catholic and Jew, evangelical and mainline Protestant, left and right, all advocating as one on behalf of perhaps the least disputable of Judeo-Christian values.
Most impressive are leaders on the religious right, who (you might say) have turned their attention from the abomination in Leviticus 20:13 to the injunction in Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
It’s one thing for religious folks to join with Latino groups and the labor movement in a state like Connecticut to turn a Democratic governor around. The real question is whether the evangelical leaders have any clout with the Republicans in state houses and the U.S. House of Representatives. I have my doubts but hope springs eternal.