On Tuesday, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency in the liberal state over a surge of migrants she says has left social services overwhelmed and called for additional funding and assistance from the federal government.
Healey, who is a Democrat, announced that a state of emergency exists “due to rapid and unabating increases in the number of families with children and pregnant people — many of them newly arriving migrants and refugees — living within the state but without the means to secure safe shelter in our communities.”
According to the state, almost 5,600 families, or more than 20,000 people, are in the state shelter system. Healey said there are several contributing factors, including “federal policies on immigration and work authorization,” along with a lack of affordable housing and the end of Covid-era programs.
Massachusetts is the most recent liberal jurisdiction to request help from the federal government because of a surge of migrants, despite not being near the besieged southern border. New York City, the state of New York, and Chicago have all made emergency declarations this year in response to a wave of migrants.
While the numbers have only been a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of migrants that hit the border every month, the areas have declared themselves at capacity and overwhelmed as migrants continue to arrive.
Healey said in July, there were 100 families seeking emergency shelter per day while the numbers leaving declined by two-thirds since 2019 — with costs hitting $45 million per month on programs.
“Many of these families are migrants to Massachusetts, drawn here because we are and proudly have been a beacon to those in need,” wrote Healey in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The governor also blamed “a confusing tangle of immigration laws, an inability for migrants to obtain work authorization from the federal government and increase in the number of people coming to Massachusetts, and the lack of an affordable housing supply in our state.”
Gov. Healey: Mayorkas should pressure Congress to use executive action
Healey called for Mayorkas to pressure Congress and use executive action to remove barriers for migrant work permits to “address our outdated and punitive immigration laws” and provide additional financial assistance to the state.
Mayorkas has echoed several of these calls himself, with the Biden administration repeatedly calling on Congress to provide additional funding as requested for the border. The administration is urging passage of an immigration reform bill introduced on President Joe Biden’s first day in office.
However, calls for immigration reform and funding have met opposition from Republicans and others. GOP members have balked at including mass amnesty for millions of illegal migrants in the 2021 proposal.
Instead, conservatives want to seek asylum loopholes closed and additional border security, with Republicans in the House introducing and passing sweeping legislation earlier in the year.
In the meantime, Independent Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema said last week she was “livid” that New York City was receiving federal funding to deal with migrants instead of states along the border.
“What we’re experiencing here in Arizona is matched only by what folks are experiencing in southern Texas,” said Sinema. “Those are the two communities that are experiencing this crisis. The rest of the country is experiencing some elements of it, but we are experiencing the brunt.”