Diaspora

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker prods federal government for more information on Haitian arrivals – masslive.com

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Massachusetts has “great compassion” for people who have left Haiti due to devastating natural disasters and political unrest, Gov. Charlie Baker said.Getty Images
Gov. Charlie Baker recently prodded the federal government to disclose more detailed information about Haitians coming to Massachusetts, warning a lack of clear guidance could prevent new arrivals from accessing resources like food stamps.
Baker, in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra last week, said Massachusetts appreciates the “robust communications” about Afghan evacuees, including the number of weekly arrivals, to help the state and resettlement agencies prepare.
As of Monday afternoon, Becerra had yet to respond to Baker.
But Baker lamented there’s been a lack of comparable updates on Haitian arrivals, despite more than 100 families settling here in recent weeks.
“I do recognize that this is not an organized resettlement, but the Commonwealth currently has received little to no information from the federal government after processing these arrivals before they left the Del Rio sector in Texas or from check-ins of arrivals at the ICE/ERO office in Burlington, Massachusetts,” Baker said in the letter shared with MassLive on Monday.
Local community organizations and agencies have struggled to decipher Haitians’ documentation — which Baker described as “unfamiliar and inconsistent” — and in turn, to gauge if people are eligible for state aid. Baker also asked Becerra for clear guidance on how to handle the status of children who were born outside of Haiti and the United States.
“We would strongly advocate that these children of Haitian entrants be considered the same status as their parents for the purposes of (Office of Refugee Resettlement) benefits and core state service eligibility,” Baker wrote. “Finally, for the Haitian arrivals not currently eligible for ORR benefits, I would advocate that these Haitian arrivals be extended humanitarian parole — thereby qualifying them as ORR-eligible Haitian entrants.”
Massachusetts has “great compassion” for people who have left Haiti due to devastating natural disasters and political unrest, Baker said. Yet the state needs a “prompt response” from the federal government, Baker wrote, as Massachusetts now encounters Haitians seeking emergency help.
“Massachusetts is proud to welcome individuals and families seeking asylum and refuge and is dedicated to helping these families live with dignity, but without the federal government’s significantly improving the process outlined above, these families will not be able to access the necessary resources,” Baker wrote.
The state’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, last week also implored the Office of Refugee Settlement to work with Massachusetts agencies, noting the commonwealth is “home to one of the largest Haitian communities in the United States.”
“We encourage you to do all you can to ensure that the process of resettling Haitians in Massachusetts proceeds smoothly,” the delegation wrote in a letter to Cindy Huang, the ORR director. “Information-sharing with the relevant officials in the Massachusetts government should be a priority.”
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