Governor Healey, feds to host work permit clinic


The announcement comes as the clock ticks down to Wednesday, Nov. 1, when Governor Maura Healey said she will begin limiting how many families it will place in its emergency shelter system.
State and federal Homeland Security will co-host a clinic the week of Nov. 13 in Middlesex County north of Boston. The state will organize appointments and provide transportation for migrants from shelter sites across the state to the clinic site.
The state is partnering with the federal government to help migrants apply for work authorization documents, directing resources toward an avenue state officials consider key to alleviating the strain on the state’s overwhelmed emergency shelter system.
“We are glad that the Biden-Harris Administration is hosting this clinic with us, which will help process work authorizations as efficiently as possible,” Healey said in a statement. “This clinic will be critical for building on the work that our administration has already been leading to connect more migrants with work opportunities.”
Until recently, homeless and migrant families were guaranteed a roof over their heads under a decades-old law that is unique to Massachusetts, the only state in the country that has such a requirement for homeless families. But now, state officials have asserted that the state can no longer guarantee shelter past 7,500 families.
Healey has said she is not seeking to end the law, but rather acknowledging the state is reaching its capacity to shelter families.
As of Friday, there were 7,268 families in the system, nearly 3,600 of whom are in hotels or motels.
A work authorization allows new arrivals to legally work and earn money as their cases move through immigration courts, and also creates a way for them to contribute to the tax base, take part in the housing market, and free up space in the shelter system.
The migrants in the shelter system have entered the country under a variety of circumstances. Some walked across the border and are undocumented, while others exist in various states of immigration limbo as they pursue asylum claims or try to avoid deportation in court. Some entered the country with visas.
The program announced Monday builds on a few programs currently operated by the state, including:
A partnership with the Commonwealth Corporation Foundation, a quasi-public agency under the state’s Office of Labor and Workforce Development, to connect businesses to people in shelter looking to get on-the-job training and skills development.
A program that connects the state’s MassHire’s regional workforce boards and careers centers to shelters statewide. For example, MassHire South Shore is working with Dunkin Donuts to fill 30 employment openings, and is and coordinating with a Plymouth shelter provider to connect shelter residents to jobs.
A pro bono program that provides legal services for more than 100 families who are currently living at larger emergency shelters.
Three months ago, Healey declared a state of emergency over the shelter system and, weeks later, said she would activate up to 250 members of the National Guard to help families living in hotels who don’t have a contracted service provider, typically a nonprofit, to help them access medical care, find transportation, or organize food deliveries.
The state has also opened two new family “welcome centers” and a temporary shelter on Joint Base Cape Cod, as well as directed an infusion of money to local organizations helping migrants with case management and legal assistance.
Healey has twice written to the Biden administration, imploring officials to quickly grant work permits to the thousands of migrants who have overwhelmed the shelter system and to send money to help the state provide necessary resources such as housing and transportation. The state’s congressional delegation has also pressured the Biden administration to change its rules to speed up the process of issuing work permits so newly arriving immigrants are not stuck for months without sources of income, reliant on state services.
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at Follow her @samanthajgross.


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