Massachusetts Right to Shelter Law and the Migrant Crisis

Massachusetts Right to Shelter Law and the Migrant Crisis

The Massachusetts Right to Shelter law was passed in 1983 by Governor Michael Dukakis, to guarantee housing to homeless families and pregnant women who reside in Massachusetts. However, the law did not include homeless individual residents as it was deemed an infeasibility at the time.

Today, that would likely be even more infeasible, as our homeless population has skyrocketed in the years since. At the same time, we have millions of illegal aliens crossing the US border every year, many of whom are eligible for services in Massachusetts under the current Right to Shelter Law.

Migrant Caravan from Central America on its way to the United States, and likely Massachusetts.

Our legislators need to fulfill their responsibilities as our representatives by putting their constituents first, and account for every homeless citizen before we make the housing situations of illegal migrant families a state priority.

The housing crisis that our own citizens face, the homelessness that stems from it, and the opioid epidemic that rubs salt in the wound: this is what our legislators should be directing surplus funds toward. But we see very clearly that we are not their focus. Governor Maura Healey made a show of her “End Veteran Homelessness Campaign,” which aims to end veteran homelessness in Massachusetts with $20 million in funding by 2027. This is while she mobilizes the National Guard to house migrants with over $1 billion in funding today.

Massachusetts National Guard escorting migrants into a local hotel.

It is not lost on any Massachusettsan that, in an ideal world, no family would be homeless. The reality, though, is that we have not even ensured housing for our own individual citizen residents, who are far fewer. There are ideals that we should strive for, but our ultimate responsibility is to our people here, and they are who we should be moving mountains to provide for.

The People’s Initiative does not support a repeal of the Right to Shelter law. We are proposing that the law be amended to restrict services to citizens only.

Signs from a protest in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

The 1983 law currently states that “a person who comes here solely for these benefits would not be considered a resident.” It seems unlikely to us that the migrants from Africa and Central America traveled across the world to settle in Massachusetts for the weather. It is also widely known that Massachusetts in particular boasts some of the highest costs of living in the United States–hardly an ideal area to settle today.

While our legislators could deny services to these migrants with the law as written currently, and send them off to New York or even back to their countries of origin, they are not motivated to do so. We must provide this motivation however we can, and force them to respond to the will of the people by amending the law and implementing the citizenship requirement, ending the invasion once and for all.

This would ensure on Day 1 of passage that citizens will be put first for all housing-related services and that Massachusetts will not be a magnet for all the migrants of the world seeking services that many of our own citizens desperately need.

Research and attend your local town meetings and speak out, call and email Massachusetts State Representatives, protest with your friends, and tell whoever you can to support the citizenship amendment for the Right to Shelter Law!

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