Politics

Here’s Gov. Baker’s plan for dealing with the influx of migrants to Mass.

Gov. Baker wants the Legislature to grant him $139 million to expand the state's shelter system, among other provisions in his new bill.

Gov. Charlie Baker filed a bill with the Legislature Friday asking for money to help deal with state's migrant crisis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Gov. Charlie Baker is asking the Legislature for $139 million to fund his plan to deal with the recent influx of migrants to Massachusetts and their impact on the state’s shelter system.

Baker filed the bill Friday, saying that the funding would expand the state’s emergency shelter capacity and improve services provided to the migrants through the shelter system.

“Massachusetts’ emergency shelter system provides support for thousands of families each year, but a recent uptick in new migrant arrivals, coupled with a strained housing market have led to a need for greater capacity across the system,” Baker said in the release. 

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“These expanded resources will help us quickly and effectively address this humanitarian crisis, especially as we enter the winter months.”

What’s in the bill

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The bill has three major funding allocations.

The first includes $73 million to expand the overall capacity of the shelter system. Baker said this money will fund the creation of more than 1,300 additional temporary shelter units.

Secondly, the bill includes $20 million to establish and maintain a temporary central intake center. At the center, families will receive timely case management services and complete intake assessments during their first few days in the shelter system, Baker said.

The third part of the bill allocates $37 million for costs associated with placing new students in local schools through the end of FY24.

The bill also contains several policy changes Baker says will allow the state to respond to the migrant housing crisis more efficiently.

One major policy change would allow the state, in concert with local school districts, to enroll students from state-placed families in nearby districts. This would help local communities manage the impact of an increase in student enrollment, Baker said.

How bad is the problem

According to The Boston Globe, the state is currently housing many migrants in hotels. In a letter Baker wrote to accompany the bill, he said the shelter system is already at capacity and that caseloads are expected to increase in the coming months.

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The Globe reported that so far this year, at least 11,000 migrants have entered Massachusetts. Most of these immigrants came over the U.S.-Mexico border while fleeing economic and political crises in their countries of origin, the newspaper reported.

Baker said the migrants are largely coming from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Haiti, and Venezuela. In the release and letter, he pointedly blamed the Biden administration and federal immigration policy for causing the state’s migrant crisis.

“We look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature, the nonprofit community and local government as we all address this unprecedented challenge, which is unfortunately driven by the federal government’s inability to address our country’s immigration challenges,” he said.

What’s next

On Tuesday, the Globe reported that Baker announced the opening of a temporary shelter and resource center in Devens next month to help ease the migrant crisis in the short term.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) will use the local community center there as a temporary residence for up to 60 families or 125 individuals at a time, the Globe reported. It will also provide food, laundry, and other services.

Last month, the Globe reported, Baker asked the Biden administration for “urgent assistance” in dealing with the migrant crisis. But as of Monday, he has yet to receive a response.

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Despite the urgent need for action, the Globe wrote, it’s unclear whether the Legislature will respond to the bill before Baker leaves office in January.

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