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Immigrants’ Rights Groups Press for Equity in MA State Budget

BOSTON – As state budget negotiations continue, immigrants’ rights groups are pleading for more money to help Massachusetts families in the wake of COVID-19. The House passed a $46 billion budget last week, and now it’s the state Senate’s turn.

Eva Millona, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), would like to see community groups get an extra $10 million to distribute as cash assistance to all needy families, regardless of immigration status.

“Emergency cash assistance is for all families who are at a vulnerable place at this time,” she said, “lost employment, who do not benefit from the stimulus, and are in desperate need for food.”

The coronavirus has hit immigrant communities especially hard in terms of illness and job loss. MIRA asked for $50 million for rental-assistance programs. So far, the House allocated a little more than half that amount. Gov. Charlie Baker has called for the budget to be done by Thanksgiving.

So far, the House has put $38,000 toward services for domestic-violence survivors. Hema Sarang-Sieminski, policy director for Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, said the money will bolster programs that have seen a big jump in demand from the immigrant community.

“This gives programs the opportunity to expand their legal advocacy, their housing-related advocacy, medical advocacy, support for immigrant survivors in culturally and linguistically specific ways,” she said.

Millona added that she expects things to improve on the national level, as the incoming Biden administration plans rollbacks of many of President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies.

“But the most important thing,” she said, “is for Congress to pass legislation that provides a path to legalization for 1.5 million across the country, and over 12,000 people here in Massachusetts.”

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