Sheltering Foreign Migrants Costing Massachusetts $900 Million-Plus A Year

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Providing emergency shelters and other services for migrants coming into the country without a place to stay will cost the Massachusetts state government more than $900 million this fiscal year and a similar amount next fiscal year, state officials said.

The state was housing 3,516 families who entered the United States “as migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers” in emergency-assistance shelters as of Tuesday, December 12, according to a report from state released this week. Some 7,531 families were in the emergency assistance shelter system that day, according to State House News Service.

The average stay for a family is more than a year, the report says.

Of the migrants in state shelters, 813 individuals “have self-reported that they have confirmed work authorization,” according to the report.

Projected costs to the state government are $932 million for the current fiscal year (which is fiscal year 2024, running from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024); and $915 million in fiscal year 2025 (which runs from July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2025).

The state is providing migrants shelters, public education, and workforce training, among other things.

Governor Maura Healey’s administration is proposing to use $700 million in a Transitional Escrow Fund in addition to funds already appropriated by the state legislature to help pay for sheltering migrants.

“Fundamentally, the crisis of family homelessness requires a multi-faceted set of policies including shelter, supportive services, education and workforce training, and affordable housing programs that enable families to leave shelter and ultimately move on to stable housing,” states the report, dated Monday, December 18, and signed by Matthew Gorzkowicz, the secretary of the state’s Executive Office for Administration & Finance, and Edward Augustus, secretary of the state Executive Office for Housing and Livable Communities.

On August 8, Governor Healey declared a state of emergency concerning foreign migrants.

About 2 ½ million migrants entered the United States during federal fiscal year 2023 (which ended September 30, 2023), “a new historic high, topping the prior year’s record,” according to Migration Policy Institute, a pro-immigration think tank.

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

When Donald Trump was president, the administration implemented a “Remain In Mexico” policy, in which the would-be immigrants applied for asylum on the Mexico side of the border and then stayed in Mexico while their case was pending. They were allowed to enter the United States only if an immigration judge approved their request for asylum.

Under President Joe Biden, federal authorities have opened the border, processing asylum requests in the United States and then allowing the migrants to go to other parts of the country while their request is pending.

The federal immigration court backlog topped 3 million cases in November 2023, up from 2 million cases in November 2022, according to The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, an organization at Syracuse University that tracks immigration data.


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