New Bedford Rep. Cabral Files Migrant Assistance Bill
New Bedford State Rep. Antonio Cabral has filed legislation that would provide cash and nutritional assistance for migrants residing in Massachusetts.
The bill, introduced on Jan. 19, would direct the Department of Transitional Assistance to provide cash assistance and benefits for migrants legally residing in Massachusetts.
Those with young children, pregnant women and caretakers would be more likely to receive these benefits.
The bill also calls for nutritional assistance benefits for immigrants eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Cabral said he proposed this legislation because of the influx of people coming to New Bedford and Massachusetts. He said those here should have assistance to help them secure necessary care and items for their families and that many of them live in areas like New Bedford.
“This would be for residents with legal status,” Cabral said. “They are in the process of getting asylum or entry-level programs available through our immigration process, or they are refugees.”
Currently, the bill has three other co-sponsors. Rep. Judith Garcia of Chelsea, Rep. Danillo Sena of Acton and Senator Jo Comerford of Northampton expressed their support for Cabral’s bill. A similar piece of legislation calling for the same benefits was also filed in the Senate this month by Senator Sal DiDomencio of Cambridge
Cabral said he has not held a meeting with House Speaker Ron Mariano of Quincy about the legislation but has been meeting with community leaders in New Bedford to raise awareness and support.
“This would establish very basic needs for immigrants, specifically for kids,” Cabral said. “I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to Speaker Mariano on this but I will when that time occurs.”
In the summer of 2022, more than 2,000 migrants arrived in Massachusetts—an increase of 1,000 people compared to the summer of 2021. Cabral said that number could continue to grow this year due to the war in Ukraine, conflict in Afghanistan and political unrest in South American countries.
“We help those in need,” Cabral said. “It’s a pretty basic human reaction and initiative that I think we ought to support.”
During last year’s legislative session, former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill to build more than 1,300 migrant shelters to address the influx of immigrants. Cabral said the $130 million bill did not receive a vote last session because of time constraints.
Current Governor Maura Healey told reporters on Jan. 20 that she plans to file a supplemental budget to expand the number of shelters and funding for migrants.
If his bill becomes law, Cabral said he hopes some of the funding in Healey’s bill will be allocated towards the Department of Transitional Assistance to enact the assistance plan.
“This would establish, eventually, most likely be part of a supplemental or state budget,” Cabral said. “It requires funding of some sort. I hope we can collaborate and come together to put this program in place.”