Massachusetts Sends Officials to Border to Warn They’re Out of Space
Massachusetts Sends Officials to Border to Warn They’re Out of Space

By Zachary Stieber

Officials representing the governor of Massachusetts are at the U.S.–Mexico border to warn groups and federal agents that the state does not have any more capacity to house illegal immigrants.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat, sent members of her administration to the border to meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, nongovernmental groups, and families “to educate them about the lack of shelter availability in Massachusetts,” according to a Tuesday press release from Ms. Healey’s office.

“This trip is an important opportunity to meet with families arriving in the U.S. and the organizations that work with them at the border to make sure they have accurate information about the lack of shelter space in Massachusetts,” Scott Rice, the state’s emergency assistance director general, said in a statement. “It is essential that we get the word out that our shelters are full so that families can plan accordingly to make sure they have a safe place to go.”

Mr. Rice is leading the contingent, which also includes officials from the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants and the Division of Housing Stabilization.

Visits to the airport in San Antonio, Texas; an immigrant resource center in San Antonio; and the port of entry at Hidalgo, Texas, are on the agenda.

Officials in Massachusetts said previously that all immigrants are welcome in the state, and steadily expanded the shelter system to accommodate the spike in illegal border-crossers in recent years.

Even with the expansion, though, the system filled up so rapidly that Ms. Healey in 2023 declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help deal with the influx.

Amy Carnevale, chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the trip is meaningless without steps to limit access to emergency shelters.

“To stop incentivizing migrants from coming to the commonwealth, the Right to Shelter Law must be amended to restrict program access based on the duration of residency in the commonwealth,” she said in a statement.

The state law requires state officials to provide shelter to homeless people.

Ms. Healey in April signed a law that forces families to exit the shelter system after nine months, and her administration said in June it was going to send notices to affected families on a rolling basis, starting with about 150 families in July. The notices inform families they “are required to leave shelter within 90 days,” according to the governor’s office.

Democrats said the law would help the shelter system continue functioning while still providing generous benefits to immigrants, regardless of legal status. Republicans have pushed to add a citizenship requirement to the Right to Shelter Law, but the minority party has thus far been unsuccessful.

Ms. Healey’s office said her administration has focused on helping immigrants receive authorization to work, job training and placement, English classes, and assistance finding permanent housing to boost the number of families leaving the shelter system.

The number of families leaving the system in May was more than 331, which was the highest number in years, the office said.

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