Governor Healey sends delegation to southern border to spread message that Massachusetts shelters are full

Governor Healey sends delegation to southern border to spread message that Massachusetts shelters are full

Governor Healey sends delegation to southern border to spread message that Massachusetts shelters are full

The five-member delegation that Gov. Maura Healey sent to Texas began its trip Sunday to spread the word that Massachusetts shelters are full and cannot accommodate the current influx of families crossing the border.

The group, led by state emergency relief director Scott Rice, began its meetings the next day, according to Healey’s press secretary, Karissa Hand. They plan to return to Massachusetts on Wednesday.

Hand said planning for the trip began a few weeks ago, as the administration continues to try to address a lack of capacity in the shelter system, with migrant families still sleeping on the floor of Logan Airport and what Healey’s office calls ” continuation” of the Congress. failure” to approve immigration reform.

The state group plans to connect with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Joint Task Force-North, nongovernmental organizations and migrant families at some of the most common entry points into Texas for families who later arrive to Massachusetts: San Antonio, McAllen, Hidalgo and Brownsville.

“This trip is an important opportunity to meet with families arriving in the United States and the organizations working with them at the border to ensure they have accurate information about the lack of shelter space in Massachusetts,” according to Rice, a lieutenant general. retired. “It is essential that we make it known that our shelters are full so that families can plan accordingly and ensure they have a safe place to go.”

Republican state Sen. Peter Durant said Massachusetts has a reputation among immigrants as one of the best places to get resources: food, a place to stay and even legal and financial support from the state. Durant said the state needs to change course if it wants to limit the number of arrivals.

“Unless you change the ‘right to housing’ law or start cutting… the benefits available, you can say ‘the inn is full’ all you want, but they will keep coming,” Durant said in an interview Tuesday .

Durant said he wonders if the visit will really deter people from trying to seek refuge here.

“You go to the border and start talking to NGOs and government organizations and tell them, ‘Don’t send them to Massachusetts’; I don’t see how that really works,” he said. “If I’m crossing the border, and I’m looking for the best possible place to go, I’m going to go to the place with the greatest benefits, the place where I can get the most services… and clearly that has been Massachusetts.”

Several immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on the Texas excursion.

In a news release, the state Republican Party criticized the Texas trip as a “publicity stunt.” MassGOP Chairwoman Amy Carnevale said the Healey administration’s recent efforts to reduce the number of immigrant families entering the state’s emergency shelter system were “an attempt to put a Band-Aid on a solution that requires major surgery.” .

“We in the Republican Party would advise the Healey-Driscoll administration to go back to the drawing board and address the ‘right to housing’ law in a more fundamental way,” Carnevale said in an interview Tuesday.

Healey’s office said the state delegation at the border would visit the San Antonio airport, the San Antonio Welcome Center/Migrant Shelter and Resource Center, the Ursula Processing Center in McAllen, the Port of Entry in Hidalgo and the Brownsville Migrant Welcome Center. In addition to Rice, the group includes the deputy director of the emergency assistance incident command, the pre-shelter policy leader for the incident command, the executive director of the state Office of Refugees and Immigrants and the strategy manager of the Housing Stabilization Division.

The state has faced record demand on the emergency shelter system over the past year. Healey declared a state of emergency last summer and in the fall he implemented a cap of 7,500 families in the state’s system.

New immigrants make up about half of the families in Massachusetts’ shelter system, according to the state’s most recent data.

Healey and the Legislature agreed this spring to impose a limit on how long families can stay in state shelters, limiting it to nine months. State guidance released this month said families who have been in state shelters for more than nine months could begin receiving notices in early July that they have 90 days to leave and must find other housing. The law allows the state to expel no more than 150 families per month, in addition to those who leave of their own free will.

In its announcement of the Texas trip, Healey’s office said the number of families leaving the shelter system “has steadily increased each month, with more than 331 families leaving in May, the highest number in years.”

Healey has previously pressured the federal government to take action on immigration, including advocating for Congress to pass a bipartisan border security and foreign aid bill (which ultimately failed) and pressuring Biden to expedite immigration permits. work for immigrants.

With reporting by Colin A. Young of the State House News Service

This article was originally published on June 25, 2024.