As the arrival of nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants on Martha’s Vineyard last week catapulted the intense politics of immigration policy to the national podium once again, the influx is a relatively small number in contrast to the over 2,000 migrants who have arrived in Boston in recent months — a significant uptick that has at least one city councilor asking, what can be done to help?

During Wednesday’s council hearing, Boston City Councilor At-Large Ruthzee Louijeune is slated to call for a hearing to discuss “the needs and services for migrant populations” amid what her filing describes as a “substantial rise in the number of migrant families seeking shelter and asylum” in the Hub in recent months.

“In statements, Boston Medical Center and Mass General Brigham acknowledged its hospitals are reporting an increase of migrants in need of shelter, a need that the hospitals are not equipped to meet,” Louijeune penned in the hearing order.

The filing cites the Immigrant Family Services Institute, a Mattapan-based nonprofit organization, which reported it has welcomed over 1,800 people between May and July, with most of the arriving migrants spurred to seek safety in the United States due to violence in Haiti. An estimate for August topped 600 people — a “six-fold increase from a typical month,” the filing says.

The trend has also caught the attention of the state’s federal lawmakers.

Citing both the uptick in Boston and the migrants who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard last week, nearly all of the Massachusetts congressional delegation on Tuesday asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security to grant funding for local groups providing humanitarian aid to migrants “as quickly as possible.”

“We would like to request that you use your administrative authorities to ensure that FEMA’s (Emergency Food and Shelter Program) is awarding funds as quickly as possible, and with as little bureaucratic delay as possible, to Massachusetts entities providing important assistance to migrants,” reads a letter sent by the cohort of lawmakers to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

“In particular, we ask that you designate personnel to help ensure that these entities’ applications for EFSP funding be expedited and, to the greatest extent possible, that funding be granted up-front instead of on a reimbursement basis,” the letter continues.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, along with Reps. Katherine Clark, Seth Moulton, Jake Auchincloss, Ayanna Pressley, Lori Trahan, Jim McGovern, Stephen Lynch, and Bill Keating.

More federal money could be clutch right now. Funding to assist Boston in providing support for migrant families appears to have hit some snags.

Louijeune’s hearing order noted the state Legislature recently set aside $8 million for the Immigrant Family Services Institute but “because of the ongoing migrant crisis, that money was quickly used and more is needed.”

Additionally, the City Council signed off on using $1.1 million of the cash the city received through the American Rescue Plan Act for temporary housing for migrants, but the funds “have yet to be allocated,” the filing states.

“Boston should also allocate additional funding to city programs, services, and nonprofits providing legal assistance, work to remove barriers in accessing city services for migrants — particularly Black migrants — and survey whether city-owned empty buildings can provide temporary housing,” Louijeune wrote. “The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement must be prepared to allocate resources, direct aid, and offer additional resources to migrant relief organizations.”

According to the letter from federal officials, lawmakers have also learned some local organizations that assist migrant communities were unaware of FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program and therefore may not have any track record of receiving that funding, which could place them at a disadvantage in seeking funding now.

“We therefore also request that your designated personnel work to help entities that are doing important work on the ground, but which might not have previously received EFSP funding, are able to apply for and receive EFSP awards swiftly,” the lawmakers wrote. “Moreover, we ask that if Massachusetts entities seek for their humanitarian work other sources of funding that are within your purview, you work to ensure that this assistance is unlocked and disbursed as expeditiously as possible.”

Massachusetts is showing it is “fully capable of caring for those in need who arrive in the Commonwealth,” the letter adds.

“We respectfully ask for your continued assistance to ensure that the federal
government is a helpful partner to those doing important humanitarian work on the ground,” the officials wrote.

The request came as the Venezuelans who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard, apparently by Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, continued to settle into life at Joint Base Cape Cod, where they were voluntarily brought to have better access to food, shelter, and essential services.


Original story HERE.