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Federal team sent to ‘assess’ migrant situation to visit Boston Tuesday, Wednesday

A Department of Homeland Security team tasked with “assessing” the migrant situation in Massachusetts plans to visit Boston Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Healey administration.

The trip comes as migrant arrivals have surged in Massachusetts, pushing an emergency shelter system already overburdened with the number of local homeless families into crisis mode. Skyrocketing housing costs and long processing periods for work authorizations have slowed both local families and migrants’ ability to exit temporary housing.

The Biden administration said last week it was sending a Homeland Security team to “assess  the current migrant situation and identify ways to improve efficiencies and maximize our support for communities that are addressing the needs of migrants.”

“We look forward to having the DHS team visit Boston this week to better understand the challenges the city and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are facing, and to make response recommendations as to how we continue to work together,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a Monday letter to Gov. Maura Healey.

A spokesperson for Healey said the administration “welcomes” the opportunity to show the assessment team “the extremely difficult situation we are facing and discuss badly-needed support.”

“Congress needs to act on President Biden’s $4 billion supplemental request which would make available some funding for cities and states. We will continue to advocate for more funding in addition to that and changes to the work authorization process,” spokesperson Karissa Hand said in a statement.

In a statement to the Herald, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the agency is coordinating with Boston and state officials “to identify ways we can continue to maximize our support for communities that are addressing the needs of migrants while enforcing tough consequences against those without a legal basis to remain in the country.”

“We will continue to offer best practices and guidance to interior cities as they work to integrate eligible noncitizens into the American workforce, and to manage our nation’s broken immigration system in a safe, orderly, and humane way until Congress acts to fix it,” the spokesperson said while pointing to $2.8 million the Biden administration has shuttled to Boston.

For the past two months since declaring a state of emergency in response to the crowded emergency shelter system, Healey has called on the federal government to provide more funding to deal with migrant arrivals and make it easier for them to obtain work authorizations.

After meeting in person with Mayorkas at the State House over the summer, Healey penned a letter last month asking for two regulatory changes that would allow migrants to work once they’re granted immigration status by the federal government and use their application as a provisional employment authorization document.

In the Monday letter, Mayorkas said the feds have taken “several concrete steps” to quickly hand out work authorizations.

He said employment authorization applications were fast tracked for people who have been paroled into the United States following a CBP One appointment, as well as those paroled from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

“(U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is working to decrease media processing time for (employment authorization document) applications for these individuals to 30 days,” Mayorkas wrote.

Officials have also sent over 1 million notifications to people paroled into the U.S. to raise awareness about their eligibility to apply for a work authorization. And Mayorkas also pointed to a recent move by the Biden administration to extend temporary protected status for Venezuelans.

“This administration has overseen the largest expansion of lawful pathways to the United States in decades,” Mayorkas wrote.

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