DiDomenico and Garcia filed legislation to provide basic benefits to legally present immigrants
Last week State Senator Sal DiDomenico joined La Colaborativa, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and State Representative Judith Garcia to launch the Feeding Our Neighbors campaign. The campaign’s purpose is twofold: to raise awareness to the plight of the immigrant community who lack access to basic needs and benefits, and to highlight the need for both legislation (which Senator DiDomenico filed alongside Rep. Garcia and Rep. Cabral) and funding to restore basic food and cash assistance benefits for legally present immigrants.
This legislation would enable the Commonwealth to provide legally present immigrants who are ineligible for federal programs with access to both state-funded supplemental food and, for families with minor children, cash assistance benefits.
“I am proud of the legislation we filed, and it will be a top priority of mine this session,” said State Senator Sal DiDomenico. “This bill will help set a higher standard in Massachusetts, and for the entire country, when it comes to supporting and respecting immigrants living in our neighborhoods. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and community leaders to advance this legislation.”
The campaign launch event was held at La Colaborativa’s Food Pantry at 63 Sixth St. in Chelsea. La Colaborativa distributes emergency food to roughly 5,000 families each week from Chelsea and surrounding communities.
“Our organization has been at the forefront of the challenges our families face pre- and post-pandemic. At the top of the list of needs is food insecurity, which comes to no surprise as most of our community members serve our state as essential workers and were drastically impacted economically,” said La Colaborativa Executive Director Gladys Vega. “We see hundreds of families form our food lines for hours on a weekly basis and it’s only getting worse.”
“Many of our residents in Chelsea have to deal with a myriad of issues when they arrive,” said State Representative Judith Garcia. “The legislation filed will help them meet some of their core living expenses.”
Over 25 years ago, the 1996 Welfare Reform Law slashed core food and cash assistance benefits to thousands of legally present immigrants across the nation – including victims of violence, “Dreamers,” immigrants with pending asylum, and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status. The bulk of immigrants are working low-wage jobs, and are unable to meet the basic food needs of their families. In 1997 the Massachusetts Legislature authorized basic cash and food assistance for needy immigrants, but the benefits ended in 2002. Six states in the nation currently provide state-funded benefits to eligible immigrants, including California, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota and Washington State.
The Feeding Our Neighbors campaign comes at a critical time. During the summer of 2022, more than 2,000 individuals arrived in Massachusetts, double the number who arrived a year earlier. That trend is expected to continue as numerous global economic challenges and political conflicts force more people to flee their home countries. The legislation will provide a framework for critical basic needs to help these individuals acclimate to their new surroundings and provide supplemental nutrition benefits to their low-wage earnings as well as help other immigrant families who are continuing to struggle economically since the onset of Covid.