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Social service agencies brace for new influx of migrants as Title 42 ends

Social service agencies brace for new influx of migrants as Title 42 ends
Social service agencies brace for new influx of migrants as Title 42 ends 03:04

BOSTON - New immigration rules take effect at the southern border as the pandemic-era public health policy knows as Title 42 ends. It allowed the U.S. to quickly expel migrants due to COVID-19. The influx is threatening to overwhelm border security and border communities that would be the first to receive the migrants.

But Massachusetts social service agencies are also bracing for an influx of migrants who they believe will make their way to the state, many with family connections. The agencies say they're already overwhelmed trying to help newly arrived Haitian migrants with services like housing, healthcare, and job assistance.

At the Immigrant Family Services Institute in Mattapan, they are seeing as many as 100 new arrivals a day, including 34-year-old Gasperd Louis Jacques who arrived in Massachusetts two weeks ago. "As of today, he is working hard to apply for a work permit," he said through an interpreter. "That's the big challenge many of them have."

Executive Director Geralde Gabeau says she needs help from every corner. "It's heavy on our shoulders because when they come here we say no matter what we are going to serve them," Gabeau said. "You can imagine there is a cost to that and it's already overwhelming."

The migrants are often fleeing violence and poor economic conditions. Jean Waldo, 31, points to scars from a beating at the hand of gangs that nearly killed him. He arrived in Massachusetts in April and is now housed in a shelter after spending time in the lobby at Boston Medical Center when a friend failed to respond to his calls when he arrived. "When he remembers where he came from, especially Haiti where gangs were trying to kill him, he believes coming here makes him safer and things will get better," he said through an interpreter.

It's a similar predicament at the International Institute of New England which is also seeing an influx of migrants seeking services. "It's hard to prepare for what you don't exactly know," said managing director Maggie Nazarenus. She doesn't know how many new arrivals to anticipate but is trying to ramp up staffing in preparation and is already nervous about not being to help everyone who comes through the door. "Definitely because of what we're already seeing in regards to the housing market in Massachusetts which is incredibly difficult," said Nazarenus.

Dr. Gabeau believes it could be a matter of days when these new arrivals come to Massachusetts and is worried about being prepared. "We are calling on churches and neighbors and ask them do you have a room, housing is our biggest challenge," Gabeau said. "These people are fleeing for their lives and when they come here the least we can do is welcome them." 

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