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Massachusetts to provide grant funding for immigration legal services for migrants

The Brazilian Worker Center in Allston for resources on immigration and labor rights. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office announced a new grant that provides funding for nonprofits focused on legal support for immigrants. MOLLY POTTER/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Due to the recent surge of migrants into Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is now accepting applications for a $750,000 grant program that provides funding for nonprofit legal services focused on providing immigration-related legal counsel.

Under the grant program, legal service organizations can receive up to $100,000 for one year to supply a variety of resources, according to The program hopes to encourage self-sufficiency and integration, while alleviating the burdens placed on immigration shelters, emergency services and the local communities that have been struggling to support the large influx of migrants. 

By expanding and improving relationships with law firms, clinics, shelters and other service-providing organizations and equipping staff with mobile workspace resources, the program aims to tackle the current backlog of migrants awaiting help. Applications must be submitted by Oct. 10, and funding for recipients is expected to begin on Nov. 13.

The grant program is a wonderful opportunity for community organizers to be able to obtain funding for legal services, said Sarah Bartley, vice president of Safe and Stable Housing at United Way of Massachusetts Bay, an organization that raises money for housing, legal and childcare services.

“There is an increased demand for services, and many nonprofits absolutely rely on philanthropic and other public funding in order to be able to serve the community,” Bartley said.

The grant program comes a year after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a flight of Venezuelan immigrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. This action accumulated international attention and disapproval from many federal officials.

After the migrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard, Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency regarding the severe uptick in migrant arrivals almost a year later in August. 

Healey requested the federal government update and expedite the work authorization process and allocate funding for shelters and other immigration relief services. She also called for charities, advocacy groups and “anyone who can offer assistance” to support the influx of migrants and refugees. 

In August, there were 5,600 families or around 20,000 individuals seeking asylum in Massachusetts. Now, there are almost 6,500 families, according to a press release from

Bartley said one of the major issues United Way of Massachusetts Bay faces is trying to find housing for migrants due to a shortage of about 200,000 housing units.

“We have definitely one of the most expensive housing markets in the country and in the greater Boston area,” she said. “We need cooperation and coordination across local, state and federal [governments] in order to produce the kind of housing that will be affordable to families across income spectrums.”

Monique Kornfeld, an immigration lawyer, believes that although it is good that states are trying to alleviate the migrant issue, immigration is too large for states to handle on their own.

“This is a federal problem. The states try to do what they can but it’s too overwhelming,” Kornfeld said. “We don’t have enough resources and staff to accommodate this increasing population of migrants.” 

Kornfeld also said the immigration system itself is broken because processes like work authorization, court scheduling and any legal immigration relief take months, or even years, to initiate and complete.

Bartley said that because there are many challenges within the legal system that migrants have to face, a program that provides legal assistance is a welcomed opportunity for organizations that meet the needs of migrants.

“There are increasingly complex challenges that families are facing … and also just a whole range of legal supports that are needed,” Bartley said. “We were really excited to hear that the [Attorney General’s] office can make funding available for them.”

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