BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–The Office for Refugees and Immigrants would see a $1 million boost in state funding to increase capacity and oversight, if the Legislature agrees with Gov. Maura Healey’s budget recommendation.
Healey’s budget includes the new $1 million line item at a time when there is an influx of refugees into the state. The appropriation would expand the office’s Citizenship for New American Program, which assists legal permanent immigrants with the process of becoming U.S. citizens, to over 1,700 residents, office Executive Director Mary Truong said at a budget hearing Tuesday. It would also expand the office’s financial literacy for newcomers program to about 300 immigrants and refugees.
Truong said state funding is “essential” for administrative expansion as more refugees and immigrants come into Massachusetts. “After years of low numbers of refugee arrivals, due to federal policies, Massachusetts received an influx of Afghan humanitarian parolees,” she said, highlighting funds that have gone toward supporting these immigrants. “During the same period, Haitian immigrants fleeing the economic and political crisis in Haiti were arriving in Massachusetts in significant and rising numbers.”
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Sweet said in December that she expects a wave of new immigrant arrivals this year “given the trends at the border.”
“The number of cases pending before the immigration court here in Boston has increased significantly in the past year to more than 107,000 pending cases,” Sweet said at the time.
The $1 million line item would also fund at least six new full-time employees, Truong said. “These essential positions will allow ORI to be more proactive when thinking about the needs of immigrants and refugees across the commonwealth,” she said.