Here’s Why Some Illegal Immigrants Are Eligible To Use The Massachusetts Right-To-Shelter Law

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Can illegal immigrants use the 1983 right-to-shelter law in Massachusetts?


The statute guarantees emergency assistance shelter at state government expense for families and pregnant women.

The lack of a residency requirement attached to the law has been a focal point in the news for the past several months, as migrants, primarily from Haiti, have come to Massachusetts and received state-funded shelter, including hotel rooms.

However, not everyone using the state’s shelter system is in the country legally — and that’s not solely because of the lack of a residency requirement. 

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, which manages the state’s emergency shelter system, clarifies that some illegal immigrants are eligible for taxpayer-funded shelter — with a caveat:  at least one member of the family must have legal status in the United States.

Here is what the state agency says on the state’s web site, regarding the eligibility of illegal immigrants for the state’s emergency shelter system:


  • Citizenship or Immigration Documents.  At least one family member must have an eligible immigration status. (examples: U.S. issued passport, green card, documentation that the United States is aware of the person’s presence and is not trying to make the person leave the country right away)


That last example includes situations where an immigrant has applied for asylum on the U.S. side of the United States-Mexico border and then been released into the country, which the Biden administration started doing shortly after President Joe Biden took office.

The middle example (green card) means that if at least one member of the family has permanent residency in the country, then illegal immigrants can stay in the state-provided shelter, too, whether the person has documentation from the U.S. federal government or not.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center For Immigration Studies, an immigration restrictionist organization, told NewBostonPost that these rules not only endanger the public but will also cost the taxpayers.

“As long as at least one family member has a record with the federal government, which includes more than three million people that the Biden administration has released after they crossed the border illegally, then the family will be eligible to use the state-funded shelters and hotels,” Vaughan wrote by email. “This will allow families that include criminal aliens, gang members, and even non-family members who are pretending to be related to the ‘eligible’ individual to stay in these lodging sites and to take advantage of the services. 

“Make no mistake — there is an easy solution to this situation, but it requires action from President Biden,” she added, referring to securing the border. “If Gov. Healey and the other sanctuary state leaders pushed back even a little, the President might have to act to secure the border, but these leaders prefer the charade, hoping to avoid accountability.”

Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said that the state’s laws make it a magnet for migrants.

“Massachusetts is the only state in the country that has a taxpayer-funded guarantee to shelter the migrants coming to our state,” Craney told NewBostonPost by email. “Once they are here, they are enrolled in a very robust welfare program system. While many voters blame our Washington politicians for not solving our open southern border, they are also blaming Governor Maura Healey for not responding appropriately at the state level. One such shortfall is the fact that taxpayers seem to be on a perpetual hook to pay for all the migrants. The Governor needs to impose a residency requirement for these very generous benefits, otherwise, our state will continue to be a magnet for the world’s migrants.”

Between January 2021, when Biden took office, and the end of December 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released more than 2.3 million migrants at the southern border into the United States, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These illegal immigrants have been released into the country and are awaiting immigration hearings in court; the practice is known as catch-and-release.

Massachusetts is home to eight sanctuary cities, according to CBS News:  Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Concord, Newton, Northampton, and Somerville.

The term “sanctuary city” usually refers to a municipality that welcomes illegal immigrants through local government services and limits cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

A press spokesman for the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities could not be reached for comment on Monday.


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