Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency on Tuesday morning in response to the rapid increase of immigrants taking refuge in the state’s shelters. Close to 5,600 families are utilizing the emergency shelter system, 80 percent more than a year ago.
“These numbers are being driven by a surge of new arrivals in our country who've been through some of the hardest journeys imaginable,” said Governor Healey. “They are here because where they came from is too dangerous to stay there. Massachusetts has and will always be a beacon of hope, compassion, humanity, and opportunity.”
In an effort to better handle the situation, Governor Healey has called on the federal government to remove barriers and expedite work authorizations. The Governor also asked for the government to help fund additional shelters.
This call to action comes as Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a “right-to-shelter” law. This law guarantees homeless families access to emergency shelters. Because of this, the state has seen an influx of unaccompanied minors and families in recent months.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has taken additional measures to combat the surge in immigrants, requesting a judge to relieve the city from its right-to-shelter obligation.
In response to the Governor’s announcement, State Representative and Candidate for State Senate Peter Durant has called for Healey to repeal the state’s housing mandate law.
“Our homeless shelters are maxed out. Hotels across the state have been converted to shelters. And the problem is growing on a daily basis. Worse yet, all of this assistance is being taken away from our legal residents and it is a potential safety risk for the children,” said Mr. Durant. “It is time to repeal the Right to Settle law, so Massachusetts will stop being a magnet state. Today, I am asking Governor Healey to file emergency legislation to repeal it.”
The Governor’s office did not comment on whether the state would pursue Mr. Durant’s suggestion.
The unprecedented situation in Massachusetts has raised serious repercussions for the future of the state’s shelter system. Some fear that the influx of immigrants will put an immense strain on resources if the federal government doesn’t come through with its requested help.
It remains to be seen how the situation will unfold, but one can only hope Governor Healey’s calls will be heard.
Biden, Apr. 20, 2021, to Proterra: "When you start making a thousand busses a year, you're going to need more room for customers" pic.twitter.com/DQ5hrYLPHt
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) August 8, 2023