Nov 29, 2022 - News

Massachusetts keeps seeing influx of migrants

Asylum seekers are escorted into the U.S. from Mexico.

Asylum seekers being escorted into the U.S. from Mexico. Photo: Michael Nigro/Getty Images

In the past two months alone, Immigrant Family Services Institute Inc. in Mattapan has seen nearly 1,000 Haitian migrants come into the Bay State, says the Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, a local pastor who works with the organization.

Why it matters: IFSI-USA is just one of several organizations in Massachusetts helping new arrivals from Venezuela, Haiti and other nations who fled political instability, violence and severe poverty back home.

  • "They keep coming on a daily basis, I get people coming up with luggage all the time looking for housing," says Fleurissaint.

Catch up fast: Thousands of migrants have traveled to Massachusetts over the past couple of years, especially in recent months, because of conflicts in their home countries.

  • Some have caught more attention than others, like the group of Haitians that were relocated to Kingston last month, or the nearly 50 Venezuelans who were flown to Martha's Vineyard earlier this year.

Context: It’s unclear how the influx of arrivals compares to previous waves, like the arrival of Haitians after the 2010 earthquake. But one key difference is that many arriving now don’t have relatives or established support networks in Massachusetts, says Emily Leung, supervising immigration attorney at the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts. 

  • It also comes at a time when the immigration system remains backlogged.

The latest: Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this month proposed $130 million in funding for emergency housing programs, citing a "dramatic increase" in demand for emergency shelter for migrants from Afghanistan, Haiti, Venezuela and Ukraine.

  • Part of the money would be used to create a temporary intake center so families seeking emergency housing assistance can work with a case manager during their first few days in shelter, Baker told lawmakers.
  • Baker's proposal comes after the legislature allotted $20 million to assist migrants as part of an economic development package.
Chancelaine Marlieuse Smith  sits at a table at IFSI-USA in Mattapan for an itnerview.
Chancelaine Marlieuse Smith speaks with Axios at IFSI-USA about her journey to Massachusetts. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Zoom in: Chancelaine Marlieuse Smith, 34, of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, arrived in late August with her husband and their two children, ages 7 and 3, and with help from IFSI-USA applied for food stamps, MassHealth and state-funded rental assistance.

  • "This is a much, much different environment compared to when I left Mexico to come here from the 29th, and so on I feel hopeful if things continue this way I believe that my children will have a much brighter future," Smith said through a translator in Haitian Creole.
  • Now Smith and her family live near Boston and her next step is to find work, but she can't until her work permit comes in the mail. The work permit could take several months to come in.

What's next: Baker's proposed emergency housing funding has to make it through the legislature, which begins its new session in January.

  • In the meantime, IFSI-USA is gearing up for dozens of more migrants to arrive in the next couple of weeks.

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