‘A job is key’: Work authorization clinic for migrants living in Mass. shelters set to open Monday

BOSTON — Governor Maura Healey’s administration in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will be hosting a work authorization clinic for migrants staying in emergency family shelters and it opens Monday.

Emergency shelters in Massachusetts hit capacity of 7,500 families last week and now a waiting list kicks in.

“Over the weekend we were able to make sure everyone had secure shelter,” said Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll Sunday. “But moving forward it will move to our safety net.”

Getting out of that safety net will become contingent on a current shelter occupant finding a way out. Enter the Work Clinic -- which will open Monday ‘somewhere’ in Middlesex County.

“They’re not disclosing the location for safety reasons,” Driscoll said. “But we do think we’ll have a site that will be able to take hundreds of folks a day.”

The goal of the clinic is to expedite work permits for migrants -- the first step towards getting a work authorization.

“A job is a key to economic mobility and getting folks out of shelter,” said Driscoll.

And there are a lot of migrants in Massachusetts shelters -- so many that hotels and military bases have been pressed into service for beds. That’s put a burden on some communities who have to deal with educating a sudden influx of children.

The state estimates about half of the 7,500 families now sheltered are migrants from such places as Haiti.

“A lot of our folks in shelter are eager to get to work, get trained,” Driscoll said. And despite a state unemployment rate of 2.6%, Driscoll said jobs are plentiful.

“From entry level positions to things that are more skilled ‚there’s no shortage of work opportunities,” she said.

Some employers will try to get a leg up on hiring by establishing a presence at the work clinic. However, that won’t mean migrants can work right away.

“Their permits will be processed right away, right on site,” Driscoll said. “Hopefully getting them in a position to have their work authorizations as soon as possible.”

Once those authorizations come through, self-sufficiency might follow. That is the hope, anyway.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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