Cape Protesters Against Illegal Immigration Draw Attention To Issue That Is Roiling Massachusetts

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As demonstrators stood near the Mashpee Rotary amid occasional rain, some passing drivers tooted their horns in apparent support.

About a half-dozen people stood with signs and a Betsy Ross American flag protesting the presence of illegal immigrants in Massachusetts on Saturday morning.

“It’s to support American citizens over illegals,” said Phyllis Sprout, of Mashpee, as she stood holding a sign. “Maura Healey is basically funding this.”

The standout was organized by United Cape Patriots.

Demonstrators told New Boston Post that they object to the presence of the migrants because many are coming without medical or criminal background vetting and without a sponsor to vouch for them.

Some also said the migrants are displacing U.S. citizens from motels and other housing at a high cost to the state government.

“They’re getting food stamps. They’re getting funds each month. I’m disabled. I’m on a limited income. Compared to what they’re receiving, it’s awful,” said Valerie Ferrari, of Mashpee.

“Any of the money and housing should be going to our Cape citizens and our veterans,” said Diane Elliott, of West Yarmouth.

“We’re here today because we’re displeasured with the fact that American citizens are being treated like second-class citizens,” said Jack Elliott, Diane’s husband.

Asked why she was there, Ann-Marie Bagley said:  “Because I don’t believe illegals should be in this country. There’s a proper way to come into this country legally, not illegally and have all the taxpayers pay for it. I’m not opposed to legal immigration. I’m opposed to illegal immigration.”


Why There Are So Many Migrants

Economic hardship in their home country isn’t a legal justification for foreign nationals to migrate to the United States under U.S. federal law.

Would-be immigrants who show up at the United States-Mexico border looking to go north have to make a case that they qualify for asylum “because of … a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” according to federal law.

Asylum seekers are first interviewed by a federal official as part of what the government calls a “credible fear review.” About 83 percent make it to a second step, which culminates in a hearing before an immigration judge.

When Donald Trump was president, the federal government took claims of refugee status from would-be immigrants on the Mexico side of the border. The would-be immigrants had to stay in Mexico while their claims were being processed, which could take two years or more.

When Joe Biden became president, the federal government started taking those claims on the United States side of the border and then letting the migrants go elsewhere in the country, without legal status, while their claims were being processed.

Illegal immigration has soared.

In September 2023, The New York Post reported that about 3.8 million migrants have entered the United States since Biden became president in January 2021, citing federal statistics. That includes 2,345,600 people who have been granted future court dates by a federal immigration judge and about 1,500,000 people whom U.S. Customs and Border Control estimates have entered the United States without being detected by federal authorities.

As of earlier this year, there were about 2.1 million immigration court cases pending, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.


Migrants and Massachusetts

While border states have seen the highest numbers, migrants have made it to many other places in the country, including Massachusetts. Many don’t have a place to live.

On August 8, Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts with respect to migrants.

Massachusetts has a unique shelter guarantee in state law – since 1983, any family or single pregnant woman who doesn’t have a place to live has a right to a state-provided emergency housing unit.

But the Healey administration says the limit for state-provided shelters is 7,500. The state created a waiting list for emergency shelters when that figure was hit Thursday, November 9.

On Wednesday, November 8 — the day after a special election for Massachusetts Senate in central Massachusetts — Democrats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide $250 million for migrants, including $50 million for more emergency shelters.

Supporters say the state should provide emergency housing for all who need it.

“As the Commonwealth’s shelter system continues to face unprecedented challenges, the funding provided in this supplemental budget, along with the mandated establishment of an overflow emergency site, will help to manage this crisis and ensure that Massachusetts does everything that it can to provide shelter for vulnerable families,” Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) said in a press release issued after the vote Wednesday, November 8.

Immigration skeptics blame the Biden administration for the surge in migrants, which they say makes the country less safe, siphons off tax dollars needed elsewhere, and takes jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.

Immigration supporters welcome the migrants, saying they need and deserve asylum and that the country needs more workers given the trouble many employers have had in finding help since the coronavirus shutdowns.

But many immigration supporters, including Governor Healey, also blame the Biden administration for the present difficulties, for not providing federal authorization for the migrants to work and thus support themselves.

State officials also want more money from the federal government.

“We continue to call on Congress to approve funds for the local management of this crisis, which is a direct result of legislative inaction on immigration reform, and we continue to urge the Biden-Harris Administration to expedite the work authorization process so that migrants can begin working and successfully exit the emergency assistance program,” Mariano said in the written statement November 8.

The supplemental budget bill with funds for more shelters for migrants has not passed the state legislature because House and Senate negotiators have so far been unable to agree on the details, as State House News Service reported Friday, November 17.


Migrants and Massachusetts Politics

While passing drivers at the Mashpee Rotary on Saturday seemed largely supportive when New Boston Post caught up with the demonstrators in the late morning, demonstrators said the reaction was mixed earlier, with some drivers expressing anger.

Just so, the state is divided on migrants – but the issue doesn’t cut nearly as pro-left as many political issues do in in the state.

A MassInc poll in late October 2023 found that 76 percent of respondents support the state’s right-to-shelter law, but that the state is more divided on whether migrants should benefit from state-provided shelters – 55 percent said they support it, with 40 percent opposed, according to the poll.

The same poll found a sharper divide on the presence of migrants – asked whether Massachusetts “should welcome people facing persecution and violence elsewhere,” only 41 percent said yes, versus 36 percent who said no, and 23 percent who said they either don’t know or refused to answer the question.

Republicans think illegal immigration is a winning issue for them in left-leaning Massachusetts.

One example:  A Republican who won a special election for Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday, November 7 – stopping a string of GOP losses in special elections – emphasized opposition to the surge of migrants in the state.

Peter Durant (R-Worcester), a Republican state representative, filed a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature that would restrict the state’s emergency housing to U.S. citizens. He won the general special election by 5 percentage points, and expects to join the state Senate later this month.

New Boston Post asked Amy Carnevale, the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, to comment on how illegal immigration plays as a political issue in the state.

“The recent state senate special election clearly showed that the issue of immigration was a driving concern for voters. Senator-elect Peter Durant talked about the ongoing mishandling of the migrant issue by the Healey Administration. The result was that Republicans flipped a seat that had been held by Democrats for 50 years,” Carnevale said Saturday, by text. “As long as the laws in the Commonwealth remain stacked against hard-working citizens, Republicans will continue to talk about the failure of Democrats to be accountable to voters and taxpayers.”

United Cape Patriots is planning to hold another standout at the Hyannis Rotary on Cape Cod from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, November 25.


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