Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the liberal state over a surge of migrants that she says has left social services overwhelmed, calling for more funding and federal action.
Healey, 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.”
The state says there are nearly 5,600 families or more than 20,000 people in the state shelter system. Healey said there are numerous contributing factors including “federal policies on immigration and work authorization” as well as lack of affordable housing and the end of COVID-era programs.
Massachusetts is the latest liberal jurisdiction to call for help from the federal government due to a surge of migrants, despite not being anywhere near the besieged southern border. New York City, Chicago and the state of New York have all made emergency declarations this year and called for help in response to a migrant wave.
While the numbers have been only a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of migrants that hit the border each month, those areas have declared themselves overwhelmed and at capacity as migrants arrive.
Healey says that in July there were 100 families a day seeking emergency shelter, while the numbers leaving shelter has declined by two-thirds since 2019 — and costs are hitting $45 million a 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,” she writes in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
She also blames “a confusing tangle of immigration laws, an inability for migrants to obtain work authorization from the federal government, an increase in the number of people coming to Massachusetts, and the lack of an affordable housing supply in our state.”
Healey called for Mayorkas to press Congress and use executive action to remove barriers for work permits for migrants, “address our outdated and punitive immigration laws” and to provide additional financial assistance to the state.
Mayorkas has echoed many of these calls himself, with the administration as a whole repeatedly calling on Congress to provide additional funding as requested at the border. The administration has urged to pass an immigration reform bill that was introduced on President Biden’s first day in office.
But such calls for funding and immigration “reform” have met with opposition from Republicans and others. Republicans have balked at the inclusion of a mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants included in the 2021 proposal. Instead, they want to see asylum “loopholes” closed and more border security, with House Republicans introducing and passing sweeping legislation earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., said last week she was “livid” that New York City was receiving federal funding to deal with migrants instead of states at the border.
“What we’re experiencing here in Arizona is matched only by what folks are experiencing in southern Texas,” Sinema said. “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.”