BOSTON – Friday, September 8, 2023 – Governor Maura T. Healey sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas outlining her administration’s specific requests for changes to the work authorization process to allow migrants to secure work faster and relieve pressure on the emergency shelter system in Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts has stepped up to address what has been a federal crisis of inaction many years in the making. Communities, service providers, and our National Guard are going above and beyond to ensure that families arriving in Massachusetts have a safe place to sleep and their basic needs met,” said Governor Healey. “We are grateful to Secretary Mayorkas and his team for meeting with us to hear about the emergency we are facing and the help we need from our federal government. This letter memorializes our requests for additional federal funding and changes to the work authorization process that would support families, reduce the burden on our shelter system, and help us address our state’s workforce needs.”
“Massachusetts is facing twin crises that aren’t unique to our state – we have rapidly rising numbers of migrant families arriving here who want to work but can’t get their work authorizations, and we are facing severe workforce shortages in all industries,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “We have the opportunity to not only address both of these issues, but also to grow our economy and strengthen our communities in the long run. We are hopeful that the federal government will take these requests into serious consideration.”
Last month, Governor Healey declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts due to rapidly rising numbers of migrant families arriving in Massachusetts, requiring the state’s shelter system to expand in an unsustainable manner. There are currently more than 6,200 families with children and pregnant women in emergency shelter, many of whom are migrants. Governor Healey also recently activated up to 250 members of the National Guard to provide services at emergency shelter hotels.
In declaring the emergency, Governor Healey appealed directly to the federal government to streamline the work authorization process to help many of these migrants obtain work that will help them support their families and eventually move out of emergency shelter. Two weeks ago, Governor Healey met with Secretary Mayorkas and his team at the Massachusetts State House to discuss these goals. This letter memorializes the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s specific requests for the federal government to address this emergency, which include regulatory and guidance changes, as well as logistical and technological improvements. The letter also reiterates the administration’s request for additional federal funding to support shelter and human services, and the need for that funding to be distributed equitably among states based on the pressure facing their systems and finances.
The requested regulatory changes include an immediate shift in how DHS interprets the statutory rules for authorizing migrants to work, allowing them to quickly and immediately apply for work authorization when the law allows it, rather than forcing them to wait for long and bureaucratic processing procedures that could take months. In addition, the letter urges DHS to dramatically accelerate its digitization of the immigration process and to build better connectivity between the information collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This includes improved access to online forms with direct language translations and user-friendly guides, more efficient creation of work authorization cards, and more streamlined application procedures to help speed up the process.