Massachusetts Governor Declares State of Emergency Over Migrant Crisis

Governor Healey calls for federal action to address the surge of migrants in need of shelter and services

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, August 8, 2023, due to the rapidly rising numbers of migrant families arriving in Massachusetts in need of shelter and services. She said that the state’s shelter system is expanding capacity in an unsustainable manner, and that further assistance is urgently needed from the federal government.

Massachusetts Governor

Healey said that there are nearly 5,600 families or more than 20,000 individuals in state shelter, including children and pregnant women. Many of these families are migrants to Massachusetts, drawn here because the state is and has been a beacon to those in need. She pointed to several factors contributing to the crisis, such as federal policies on immigration and work authorization, an increase in the number of people coming to Massachusetts, a lack of affordable housing, and the end of COVID-era programs.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Healey called on the federal government to take urgent action to streamline and expedite work authorizations and increase funding to states to assist in providing shelter and services to families. She also called on bipartisan leaders in Congress to address outdated and punitive immigration laws. She said that without federal action, the situation will only worsen and put more lives at risk.

State launches new programs and partnerships to support migrant families

The state has launched several new programs and partnerships to support migrant families in state shelters. One of them is the Immigrant Assistance Services (IAS) program, which provides case management, legal services, and other support for families. This program, not yet replicated in any other state, is providing an unprecedented level of legal support toward asylum, work authorization, and other legal steps to help new arrivals integrate into Massachusetts.

The state is also working to establish new and innovative pathways for new arrivals to secure work. For example, the state is partnering with local employers and community colleges to create training and employment opportunities for migrants in high-demand sectors such as health care, hospitality, and construction.

Additionally, the state is collaborating with cities and towns, charities, advocates, faith organizations, and providers to meet the need for shelter and work. The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Boston Foundation have established a Migrant Families Relief Fund to support new arrivals. The public can also help by contacting the state at or by dialing 211.

Migrant crisis affects other states as well

Massachusetts is not the only state facing a migrant crisis. Other liberal jurisdictions such as New York City, Chicago, and the state of New York have also made emergency declarations this year and called for help from the federal government in response to a surge of migrants.

The migrant wave is largely driven by the ongoing humanitarian and political crises in countries such as Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Afghanistan, and Myanmar. Many migrants are fleeing violence, persecution, poverty, and instability in their home countries. They are seeking safety and opportunity in the United States.

However, the U.S. immigration system is overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of arrivals at the southern border and elsewhere. The Biden administration has been struggling to balance its humanitarian commitments with its border security obligations. The administration has faced criticism from both sides of the political spectrum for its handling of the migrant situation.

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