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More than 1,700 migrants submit work authorization applications at Reading clinic

More than 1,700 migrants submit work authorization applications at Reading clinic
More than 1,700 migrants submit work authorization applications at Reading clinic 02:26

READING - More than 1,700 migrants have submitted work authorization applications to the federal government through a temporary clinic set up at Camp Curtis Guild in Reading.

The state's work authorization center was created in mid-November to help migrants legally find work. 

"There's a seamless flow, designed and laid out to make it as easy as possible," said Dawn Brantley of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). 

As many as 500 migrants are bussed from their emergency shelter to the military base a day, some with young children. The center features several tables with immigration attorneys as the state and federal government hope to expedite work permits. It's an effort to move families out of the crowded shelter system. 

"This work clinic streamlines it down to less than 30 days," said General Scott Rice. "Whereas some cases it's months and now it's 30 days as they come through and get all those complicated pieces together." 

Once approved, Gen. Rice said migrants will likely find work in healthcare and small businesses. 

While critics argue this could incentivize migrants to come here to Massachusetts, draining state resources and funding, the Biden administration said these families are here seeking asylum. 

"These people are here legally, the people we're here helping," said White House Deputy Director Daniel Koh. "These people who are here. They want to work. I'm sure if you talk to small business owners across the country, they're saying they need workers." 

It's been an eye-opening experience for Army Specialist Grace Colin. Born in Brockton, Colin is Haitian and speaks Creole like many of the migrants in the room. 

"At first it was sad but to see their resilience, it makes me feel better," she explained. 

The stories have been heart wrenching. Families with young children escaping Haiti, Colin said, walking from Chile to the U.S.
"They explained that they were in the woods," she said. "Some people died because they couldn't eat. A lot of women and children passed." 

The migrants who made it to Massachusetts will be getting a $250 million boost from state lawmakers to secure emergency shelter beds as the weather gets colder. 

It's a step in a complicated process to help migrants become self-sufficient. 

"This clinic has been critical in connecting migrants to work opportunities to help them support their families and move out of emergency shelters and into stable housing," General Rice said. 

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