State leaders speak to U.S. House dysfunction as migrant crisis reaches breaking point

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Massachusetts is in desperate need of federal help to address the worsening migrant crisis, state leaders said Monday afternoon — help indefinitely held up by the dysfunction in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I mean this with all sincerity, if you’re expecting money to come out of Washington now you might as well go buy a bridge in New York City because chances of both are the same,” said state House Speaker Ronald Mariano at a press availability Monday afternoon, referring to the U.S. House’s inability to elect a Speaker over the last nearly three weeks and return to work.

Gov. Maura Healey announced the state’s shelters will reach capacity by the end of the month last week and called on federal action including emergency funding and expedited work authorizations.

Massachusetts is the only right-to-shelter state, meaning the government is required to provide emergency shelter to families with children, and the recent influx of migrant families into the state led Healey to declare a state of emergency this fall.

The state is spending $45 million a month on the law, according to Healey, and as of mid-October, the state is providing shelter for over 7,000 families.

Healey stressed Monday that the state is doing all that it can — including looking at more funding in a supplemental budget — but has “reached capacity” in terms of infrastructure and personnel.

Leaders said they are “discussing” what to do when it comes time to start turning families away.

“I think the important point here is that Massachusetts has done its job,” Healey said. “And so many have come together to make that possible. We need help from the federal government and help is monetary certainly.”

Healey expressed gratitude for the Biden administration’s proposed funding to aid the crisis but continued to call for White House action on “things that are within their control,” like faster work authorizations for migrants.

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“The Biden administration did put what have what $1.4 billion in bail to help states like Massachusetts,” said state Senate President Karen Spilka. … “But getting something through Congress right now, you all know the situation in the House and until that is resolved, that money is not going anywhere.”

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