Protesters, worried that migrants are taking away shelter beds from Massachusetts residents experiencing homelessness, have staged demonstrations and disrupted town meetings on Cape Cod, a redder region in the deep-blue state. Members of the Nationalist Social Club, or NSC-131, a New England-based neo-Nazi group, have demonstrated in front of hotels and a college dormitory housing migrants.
“I really see a lot of this pushback as politically opportunistic,” Democratic state Sen. Julian Cyr, a Healey ally who represents the Cape and nearby islands, said in an interview. “There’s a bit of this … ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment. I think that’s a minority sentiment.”
Healey has declared an emergency, secured $2 million in FEMA funding and activated up to 250 National Guard members to help out at the hotels and motels serving as shelters, all while “begging” the Biden administration for more money for services and expedited work permits for migrants.
While Biden’s move to extend legal protections and work permits to Venezuelans offered the president a temporary political reprieve, the effects are limited in Massachusetts, where the state says Venezuelans make up only a small percentage of families in the emergency shelter system. Healey is asking the Biden administration to also speed up work authorizations for Haitians who make up a larger share of new arrivals in Massachusetts.
“We’ve been continuing to call upon and call upon the federal government and Congress to act,” Healey told reporters at the State House days before the Biden administration announced the aid for Venezuelans. “And it is because help has not been forthcoming that we find ourselves in this situation.”
Massachusetts, like New York City, is required to provide emergency shelter to qualifying families under the state’s “right-to-shelter” law. But that’s leading some areas to simply transfer migrants to other jurisdictions if there are no shelters available.
Small cities in New York are shouldering an influx of migrants sent by Adams, who in the past has transported asylum-seekers to Florida, Texas and even as far away as China. Last spring, he bussed more than a dozen migrants from New York City to Newburgh, a city of roughly 30,000 residents about an hour north along the Hudson River, as part of a larger push to move about 1,600 asylum-seekers to the suburbs.
That has created an awkward dynamic, with red states like Texas sending migrants to New York City, which in turn sends migrants to small, often GOP-led municipalities.