Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday requested additional assistance from the Biden administration to resettle asylum-seekers arriving in his state from countries like Afghanistan and Haiti.
The Republican governor penned a letter to Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting assistance to secure jobs and benefits for thousands of individuals claiming refugee status in the U.S.
The letter comes as local officials have slammed the Baker administration for relocating migrants arriving in Massachusetts to hotels in Plymouth and Kingston due to an overwhelmed shelter system, State House News Service reported.
"Massachusetts is proud to welcome individuals and families seeking asylum and refuge and is dedicated to helping families live with dignity, but additional federal support is required," Baker wrote.
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According to the governor, in fiscal year 2022, Massachusetts agencies have processed 4,334 migrants, including over 2,000 Afghan humanitarian parolees, 822 Cuban and Haitian entrants, and 548 refugees. The state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) reported 133 migrant families, totaling more than 400 individuals, entered shelter since July 2022.
Baker requested that DHS and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services "expedite and streamline" work permits for new arrivals and asylum seekers, so they can support their families and contribute to the economy.
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He also asked the Office of Refugee Resettlement to expand the category of migrants who are considered eligible for federal benefits, calling the current system "arbitrary and unproductive."
"I ask that HHS and ORR rectify this inequity and provide equal support to newly arrived Cuban and Haitain Entrants, Amerasians, Asylees, and Certified Victims of Human Trafficking – and extend support to those with Temporary Protected Status and asylum applicants," Baker wrote.
Local officials in Kingston and Plymouth expressed frustration with the Baker administration last week and said they were not given proper notice that migrants and homeless people would be relocated to hotels in their towns. The Boston Globe reported that 107 people, including 64 children, were sheltered at a hotel in Kingston. Most of them were reportedly illegal immigrants and non-English speakers from Haiti.
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Kingston Town Administrator Keith Hickey complained that the presence of these migrants would put an unexpected strain on the town.
"I have expressed my disappointment to the representatives of DHCD," Hickey told the Globe. "The Kingston School Department is going to have to educate these children with resources and tools that were not expected, that were not anticipated."
Plymouth Town Manager Derek Brindisi said his community is ready to help the migrants, "But it would have been easier to provide support if we had been a part of the planning process."
In his letter, Baker said that Massachusetts and other states are not able to handle the influx of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers pouring over the unsecured southern border.
"As long as the situation at the southern border is unchanged, Massachusetts and many other states will struggle to cope with this substantial increase in immigrant families accessing shelter and other services. I respectfully call on the federal government to do its part in providing urgent assistance," he added.