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  • Carl Sandy Alcema

Massachusetts’ governor weighs $20M in Afghan, Haiti aid

Immigrant advocates in Massachusetts are cheering the inclusion of $20 million in aid to Afghan refugees and Haitian migrants in a broader, $4 billion spending plan from state lawmakers.

The bill, which was approved last week and is currently awaiting Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature, sets aside $12 million for Afghan refugees and another $8 million for Haitian migrants.

For Afghans, the legislature’s plan calls for up to 75% of the $12 million to go directly to arriving families, and the remaining 25% to bolster refugee resettlement organizations.

The funding could provide, on average, about $3,000 per refugee, or $12,000 for a family of four, according to Thielman, whose organization has resettled more than 200 of the roughly 700 Afghan refugees that have so far arrived.

“This should give folks a really good running start in their first six months,” he said. “Federal dollars only go so far.”

For Haitian migrants, the legislature’s spending plan designates $8 million to the Immigrant Family Services Institute, a Boston-based group active in the local Haitian community.

“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, last month.

Baker contrasted the situation for Haitian arrivals with that of Afghan evacuees settling in the U.S.

Baker also said earlier in November the state has received weekly emails from federal agencies alerting the administration to the number of weekly Afghan arrivals. The state expects to welcome about 1,100 Afghans, according to federal officials.

“We are requesting the same level of communication and partnership for the arriving Haitian people," Baker said.

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