The Trump administration’s ever-tightening immigration rules are putting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of local residents in danger and threatening the social cohesion and economic well-being of local communities, according to a new report by the Boston Foundation and the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund.
More than 12,000 Massachusetts residents with Temporary Protected Status could be forced to leave the country because of President Trump’s policies, breaking apart families and depriving towns of homeowners and taxpayers, said the 32-page report, “The Growing Wave of Federal Immigration Restrictions: What’s at Stake for Massachusetts?” set for release Thursday.
“The changes have been so dramatic, and there’s just been so many that it’s been difficult, even for people that work in [immigration policy], to keep track of the day-in, day-out whimsical adjustments that are being made at the federal level,” said Trevor Mattos, the report’s lead author and a top staffer at Boston Indicators, the Boston Foundation’s research center. The foundation funds research and philanthropy seeking to benefit area residents.
The abrupt policy shifts have immigration attorneys scrambling and taking on more and more clients affected by the changes, said Iris Gomez, senior staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and a co-editor of the report.
Gomez said that in her nearly 40 years of practice, she has not seen such abrupt changes in immigration policy in such a short span — “not under any Republican or Democratic administration.”
“Under both parties, it’s all been preceded by a great deal more stakeholder engagement as policies were rolled out,” Gomez said.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has criticized Trump’s immigration policies and proposes to spend $50,000 helping immigrants facing deportation to hire lawyers, is scheduled to speak at an event Thursday introducing the report.
“Over the last few years, the hits have just kept coming,” Walsh said in a copy of his prepared remarks provided to the Globe. “We’ve seen travel bans, scare tactics, and policies rooted in fear, bigotry, and racism. It’s counter to everything our country stands for. It’s shameful. But Boston continues to fight back. We’re showing up for people who need help.”
The report seeks to reframe the discussion around immigration by arguing that it is not a detriment to existing communities but instead enriches them, bringing new businesses, jobs, and civic engagement. Immigrants help stabilize populations in areas where others are moving out and are more likely than native-born Americans to open businesses, the report says; they also contribute tax revenues but tend to use fewer government services than the overall population. Immigrants also account for most of Boston’s population growth since 1990, according to the report, and their contributions have helped make the city less provincial, while also helping expand the robust technology scene and other industries.
Boston, Mattos said, “is becoming a more vibrant place, in many ways thanks to growth in this portion of our population.”
The new report comes amid a flurry of immigration policy developments in Washington. On Tuesday, advocates for immigrants claimed a long-awaited victory as the Democratic-led US House on a near-party line vote passed a sweeping immigration bill that provides an avenue to citizenship for more than two million migrants. On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it is canceling English classes, recreation activities, legal aid, and other support for unaccompanied children in US immigrant shelters which it considers “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”
The report seeks to draw attention to the ways in which administrative actions taken by the White House are also making it harder on those immigrants who enter and remain in the US through legal channels.
New restrictions, Gomez said, have a “chilling effect” on many immigrants, instilling fears that can lead them to avoid seeking government benefits “thinking that it will be better for the family if the children go hungry . . . . People are chilled out of accessing programs for the public good that really are essential for all the children in our communities.”
Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, applauded the report’s identification of opportunities and obstacles for immigrant employment.
“It has the evidence, and it really shows how immigrants, as part of the workforce . . . are really reshaping our Commonwealth,” Millona said. “We have immigrants who are coming here with skills, and refugees also who are coming with skills and degrees, and doctors are driving cabs or selling burgers.”