SOMERSET, Mass. (WPRI) — Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey announced the state will soon reach 7,500 families in its emergency shelter system and won’t be able to take in any more migrants.
Healey’s office put out a news release Tuesday saying the need for shelter has more than doubled over the past year, and the state won’t be able to safely sustain more people.
Any new migrants seeking to come into Massachusetts will be added to a waitlist, according to the governor’s office.
Massachusetts is the only state in the country that has a right-to-shelter law, which was established in the 1980s and guarantees emergency housing for families and pregnant women. But recently, the state has been relying more on hotels and motels across the state to meet the emergency shelter demand.
In Somerset, town leaders meet twice a month to discuss their response to the arrival of 120 people, many from Haiti.
“At first, it was bumpy,” Town Administrator Mark Ullucci said. “We weren’t told until the very next day.”
But since then, Ullucci said the town has received such an outpouring of support that it no longer needs clothing donations for winter.
Yet like many town leaders, he’s wondering what things will be like in a year.
“This isn’t permanent or long-term housing,” Ullucci noted. “So we’re hoping that in that time period, whether it’s the state or federal government will have a better plan.”
Healey has been calling on the federal government to fast-track work authorizations.
“We need urgent support from the federal government, which bears ultimate responsibility for this situation,” she said last month.
Plainville’s two hotels are home to more than 70 families. Town Administrator Brian Noble said they just want to work.
“They are begging to get out of the hotel and make a contribution and make their own way,” he told Target 12.
Immigration attorney Melanie Shapiro said that while some actions require Congress, President Joe Biden can direct federal organizations to help the migrants.
“Grant them parole for a period of one year, during which time they can immediately apply for a work permit,” Shapiro explained.
But she added that the federal government isn’t showing any signs of taking those steps.
Regardless of what the federal government does, Shapiro warned people are going to work anyway.
Noble hopes the federal government will take responsibility.
“They gave them the visa, they let them into the country, that’s great,” Noble said. “Now take the next step and let these people support themselves.”