One of MIRA’s most important functions is to serve as a hub for reliable, up-to-date information on immigrants and refugees in Massachusetts and all the services and resources you may need.
This section has three key types of material: facts and figures; key aspects of immigration law and immigrants’ rights; and links to information and contacts for citizenship, English language and adult education; health and human services; and refugee assistance.
We have additional resources on entrepreneurship, workforce development, access to education, and foreign-trained professionals in the Integration Institute section.
Facts about immigrants & refugees
Scores of reports and factsheets about immigrants are published every year, mainly at the national level, but also some at the state and local levels. This page highlights key resources that we find particularly useful and cite in our own work; in the future, we expect to present a collection of MIRA-produced factsheets as well.
Immigrants are our Commonwealth (January 2019)
Immigrants in the Massachusetts Economy (August 2018)
Temporary Protected Status (updated March 2019)
Defending the Dream (updated January 2019)
In-State Tuition for Immigrant Students (March 2019)
See Reason magazine’s visual primer, What part of legal immigration don’t you understand? (2008)
REAL ID and Mass. driver’s licenses: March 2018 update
In 2016 Massachusetts passed legislation to implement REAL ID, a federal standard adopted by Congress in 2005. Under the new law, state residents will have two options for their driver’s license or ID card: a REAL ID-compliant one, or a standard Massachusetts state license. The new system is effective on March 26, 2018.
If you already have a valid, unexpired Mass. driver’s license or ID on March 26, it will still be valid until its expiration date.
The changes affect everyone, but are particularly important for non-citizens to understand.
Key differences between a REAL ID and a standard license:
- The REAL ID licenses will be marked “valid for federal identification purposes” with a gold star in the upper right-hand corner.
- If you want a REAL ID license or ID, you must apply in person, whereas five-year standard licenses can be renewed completely online in most cases.
- Starting in October 2020, only licenses/IDs that are REAL ID-compliant will be accepted as identification at airport security checkpoints. You will NOT be able to board an airplane using a standard Mass. license or ID.
- You will still be able to use a valid passport (from any country), an EAD card, a permanent resident card (green card), or any of the other documents listed to board flights or as ID to enter a federal building.
- Until October 2020, your standard license or ID can still be used to board an airplane; in federal buildings where ID is required, you already need REAL ID or one of the other federally accepted documents listed above.
Emergency plans for families
Parents whose immigration status is uncertain are encouraged to make emergency plans for the care and custody of their children in the event of a sudden detention by immigration officials and possible deportation. There are several different legal options, and the right choice for each family will depend on the specific circumstances. For example, it matters whether you have relatives with legal status who can help you, and where they live. You’ll also want to consider your child’s needs (e.g. medical concerns).
To explore your options, MIRA recommends that you review guides prepared by the Mass. Attorney General’s office (available in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Portuguese) and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (in English, with helpful forms to fill out).
If your children might need to move abroad in the event of a deportation in the family, make sure they have a passport! They may be eligible for a U.S. passport, but also consider getting them a passport from your country of birth; the Mexican and Salvadoran consulates, for example, have actively encouraged their citizens to do this. Here is a list of consulates in Boston.
The following organizations can provide immigration legal services through attorneys or BIA-accredited representatives:
Greater Boston Area
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD)/
Fenway Neighborhood Service Center
714 Parker Street
Roxbury, MA 02120
Ph: (617) 445-6000
62 Northampton Street, #203
Boston, MA 02118
Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigrant Services
275 West Broadway
South Boston, MA 02127
Ph: (617) 464-8100
Call Monday at 9:00am to leave voicemail to schedule appointment
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
KEY THINGS TO KNOW (updated Jan. 31, 2019):
It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but DACA is still alive, despite the Trump administration’s many efforts to end it. Because the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear DACA cases this term, we expect DACA renewals to continue to be processed until at least October 2019. If your DACA expires in 2019 (or if it already expired), we urge you to apply to renew ASAP!
For authoritative, regularly updated information on DACA litigation, see the National Immigration Law Center.
We also recommend this excellent overview of DACA’s positive impact on beneficiaries and the whole economy.
Temporary Protected Status
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a humanitarian designation made by the President of the United States for the benefit of people who could not safely return to their countries due to armed conflict, a natural disaster, an epidemic, or other extraordinary conditions.
Once a country has been designated for TPS, eligible nationals of that country have a limited time to apply for the status. The TPS designation allows beneficiaries to receive work authorization and have a Social security number, making them eligible for a driver’s license and other benefits. TPS designation can be valid for six, 12, or 18 months – depending on what the administration wishes to do in a particular case – and can be renewed an unlimited number of times. Every time a designation is renewed, those with TPS status must re-register and might also need to renew their work authorization.