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Massachusetts governor declares emergency due to migrant crisis

Maura Healey calls on federal government to provide ‘urgent action’ as shelters housing migrants and refugees reach capacity



Massachusetts governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as shelters housing migrants and refugees reached capacity, and called on the federal government to help.

In a letter addressed to US secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas, Healey said: “To our partners in the federal government, Massachusetts has stepped up to address what sadly has been a federal crisis of inaction that is many years in the making.


“But we can no longer do this alone. We need federal partnership, federal funding, and urgent federal action to meet this moment and to continue to serve some of our most vulnerable families.”

The state has about 5,600 families in shelters – a sharp increase from last year’s 3,100. Another 1,800 or so families without homes are currently housed in hotels and motels.


The predicament is being exacerbated by delays in issuing work permits to people waiting for legal cases to be concluded within the immigration system. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for approving and renewing work permits, blames the delays on the Covid pandemic, which it said strained its resources and disrupted processes.

Other reasons for the emergency, Healey said, are “a confusing tangle of immigration laws” and “the lack of an affordable housing supply”, as well as a rise in the number of people coming to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is the only state with a “right to shelter” law, which requires qualified families to be provided with immediate housing.

In the past, Massachusetts has seen migrants bussed or flown in from other states without those states making bilateral agreements beforehand.

The far-right Florida governor Ron DeSantis arranged for 50 Venezuelan migrants to be flown to the upscale tourist island of Martha’s Vineyard in September last year without notice, causing what local officials called an “urgent humanitarian situation”.

Many of these migrants alleged they were lured under false pretenses of safety and jobs, which had not actually been arranged – although many locals scrambled to welcome and provide for the sudden new arrivals after it happened.

Texas, another conservative state led by governor Greg Abbott, has also bussed hundreds of migrants to so-called sanctuary cities in the north-east – Democratic-led cities that limit their cooperation with the enforcement of federal immigration law.

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