(The Center Square) – Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency Tuesday due to the “rapidly rising numbers” of migrants arriving in the commonwealth, while critics are calling on the governor to revoke the state’s “Right to Shelter” policy.
Healey, a Democrat, is using the declaration to put the commonwealth and federal government on notice, stressing the need for assistance as Massachusetts’ shelter system is quickly expanding capacity in an “unsustainable manner.” Healey’s office says nearly 5,600 families and over 20,000 individuals are housed in state shelters.
The governor says demand for emergency shelter has “skyrocketed” in the past year, with an increase of approximately 3,100 families. She added that the number of families leaving emergency shelters has dropped, blaming a lack of affordable housing.
“I am declaring a state of emergency in Massachusetts and urging my partners in the federal government to take the action we need to address this crisis by streamlining the work authorization process and passing comprehensive immigration reform,” said the governor.
The state of New York and dozens of cities and counties across the country have also declared emergencies over the migrant crisis, including Chicago and El Paso, Texas, as more than 8 million foreign nationals have been apprehended illegally crossing the border since President Joe Biden first took office.
In addition, Healey’s administration is calling on the federal government to fast-track funding and work authorizations for asylum seekers, assisting in providing shelters and additional services to migrant families.
Paul Diego Craney, spokesman for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, calls for a different solution, requesting the administration and state Democrats to end a 40-year-old immigration law.
“The governor and Massachusetts Democrats need to send a message to Washington and they should do that by revoking the Massachusetts ‘Right to Shelter’ state law which was passed in 1983, when we still had a functioning immigration process,” Craney added.
The governor penned a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas arguing that work authorizations are “a primary driver of the crisis.” Healey is calling on members of Congress to address “outdated and punitive” immigration laws.
Carney pointed the finger at Healey for not addressing the root of the migrant crisis, inviting her to visit the southern border.
“Without recognizing the severity of the problem and reasons for it, which is an open border and unaccountable president, it will persist by draining resources from Massachusetts and its taxpayers,” said Craney. “Perhaps it is time the governor to take a trip to the southern border to see firsthand the open southern border crisis.”
In response to the migrant emergency, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Boston Foundation has established a relief fund to assist migrant families – including emergency financial assistance to provide essential needs for families, provide health screenings, translation services, English as a second language classes, legal aid and cultural integration support.
The Healey administration also recently established the Immigrant Assistance Services program, awarding the program $1.75 million to assist up to 800 “newly arrived immigrants” by providing case managers, legal services and additional support to migrant families.