In a letter sent Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) declared a state of emergency due to “rapid and unabating increases” in the number of newly arriving migrants and refugees.
Gov. Healey attributed the state of emergency to federal policies on immigration and work authorization, inadequate production of affordable housing over the last decade, and the end of COVID-era food and housing security programs.
More than 5,500 families, including very young children and pregnant women, are living in emergency shelters and receiving support services from the state, and more than 1,800 families are currently residing in hotels and motels, the governor said.
The governor did not say how many of those individuals are present in the U.S. illegally.
“Many of these families are migrants to to Massachusetts, drawn here because we are and proudly have been a beacon to those in need,” Healey said. “These families require help to obtain housing, food, medical care, education, diapers, and infant formula. Some are fleeing imminent threats of violence.”
“They all have one thing in common. They are in danger of going without the most basic of human rights in one of the most prosperous places on earth: the ability to lay their heads down in a safe place every night with a roof over their heads and with access to fundamental human necessities,” she wrote. “They have called upon us to help give them shelter and the ability to work.”
Healey said that although the state has launched new shelter sites, and over 80 cities and towns have answered the call to host these families, “these efforts have not been enough.”
In March of this year, 68 families per day were coming to the state’s field offices seeking assistance — a number which surged to over 100 families in July, and had more than doubled since March of 2022.
Shelter entries per month are more than double the number of entries per month during the pandemic, while the number of families exiting the shelters for permanent housing has fallen by nearly two-thirds since 2019.
Despite Massachusetts spending more than $45 million per month on programs to help the migrant families, Healey said that they “do not currently have tools we need to meet the rapidly rising demand for emergency shelter.”
Healey asked for federal partnership, funding, and action to “meet this moment” and to “continue to serve some of our most vulnerable families.”
The governor also urged Mayorkas to continue to press Congress to remove barriers keeping people from getting work authorizations, and to “address our outdated and punitive immigration laws.”
“To the cities and towns across the state, many of which have a rich history tied to waves of immigrants settling within their borders, I am encouraging communities to keep welcoming those families who wish to resettle in all corners of Massachusetts,” Healey wrote.
“And I will continue to commend the people of Massachusetts for welcoming families into our community as neighbors — our collective compassion and inclusivity is what makes Massachusetts the exceptional place that is it,” she added.
Read Gov. Healey’s full letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas below: