February 23, 2024

Warren, Markey Urge Senate Appropriations Leaders to Increase Funding to FEMA’s Shelter and Services Program to Support New Arrivals

“Meeting the needs of newly arriving migrants is a national responsibility, and the federal government must ramp up its assistance to state and local host communities.”

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine), urging them to increase funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Shelter and Services Program (SSP) to $5 billion in the upcoming Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill for fiscal year 2024. Funding would support entities that provide shelter and services to new arrivals, which is timely as Massachusetts works to meet migrants’ housing needs.

“It is critical that the upcoming appropriations bill include sufficient funding for SSP,” said Senators Warren and Markey. “President Biden requested $1.4 billion in SSP funds for FY 2024. But as local officials and members of Congress have repeatedly noted, $1.4 billion is insufficient to meet the migrant shelter needs of border and interior communities . . . We therefore urge that you support appropriating enough SSP funds to meaningfully relieve the budgetary burden on state and local host communities. We specifically request the allocation of $5 billion in SSP funds.”

Since August 2022, the need for shelters has ballooned, and Massachusetts has converted additional spaces to use as shelters, including motels, a military base, university dormitories, and other temporary locations. In November 2023, the state hit its shelter capacity limit and now maintains a growing waiting list of over 650 additional families who are eligible for shelter but lack a shelter placement. 

“The Commonwealth is working tirelessly to help migrant families secure long-term housing and rental assistance, as well as employment authorizations and job opportunities so that they can exit the shelter system and support themselves. But in the short term, the Commonwealth urgently needs an influx of federal assistance to meet migrants’ housing needs,” Senators Warren and Markey continued. 

Of the $363 million in SSP federal funding made available nationwide during the summer of 2023, Massachusetts received just $1.9 million to aid the state’s migrant response. 

“Massachusetts is committed to welcoming new arrivals and is striving to ensure that each family in the state lives with dignity and in safe, stable housing. At the same time, meeting the needs of newly arriving migrants is a national responsibility, and the federal government must ramp up its assistance to state and local host communities,” Senators Warren and Markey concluded. 

Senator Warren has led ongoing efforts to protect the rights of asylum seekers and other migrants, and to hold the United States accountable to its humanitarian obligations: 

  • In February, Senator Warren and colleagues submitted an amendment to the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2024 that would provide $5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Shelter and Services Program (SSP) without requiring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ramp up its detention and deportation efforts.
  • In December 2023, Senator Warren, along with the entire Massachusetts delegation, wrote to FEMA raising concerns about a lack of federal funding for non-border states like Massachusetts experiencing a significant influx of migrants and requesting additional federal SSP funding for the Commonwealth.
  • In November 2023, Warren, Markey, Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou, commending DHS for the steps it has taken to expand access to employment authorization documents (EADs) for eligible noncitizens, and laying out several policy proposals to help address delays in issuing EADs. 
  • In September 2023, Senators Warren and Markey applauded the Biden administration’s redesignation of TPS for Venezuelan migrants.
  • In August 2023, Senators Warren and Markey and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Bill Keating (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Secretary Mayorkas and Director Jaddou, urging them to expedite the processing of EADs for individuals paroled into the United States, which would lessen the strain on available humanitarian and housing resources. 
  • In March 2023, Senators Warren, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla and 9 other senators submitted a public comment against the Biden administration’s proposed rule to restrict asylum at the southern border. The senators called on the Biden administration to withdraw the rule in its entirety.
  • In January 2023, Senator Warren and nearly 70 other lawmakers sent a letter urging President Biden to reverse his Administration’s expansion of the inhumane Trump-era border policy known as Title 42 and to abandon the proposed asylum “transit ban” rule. The lawmakers also encouraged the President and his Administration to work with Congress to develop safe, humane, and orderly border policies that enforce our immigration laws and uphold the right to asylum under domestic and international law.
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren led members of the Massachusetts delegation in a letter to DHS and FEMA calling for funding from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to be allocated swiftly to organizations assisting newly arrived migrants in Massachusetts. 
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren released a statement condemning efforts to use asylum seekers as political pawns and committing to assisting communities in need. 
  • In November 2021, Senator Warren stated her opposition to the continued use of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers and called for the Biden administration to rescind this policy.
  • In October 2021, Senator Warren joined Senator Menendez in criticizing the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants and called on the Administration to support long-term stability in Haiti.  
  • In October 2021, Senator Warren called on Chris Magnus to commit to transparency regarding the investigation into the events in Del Rio, Texas during his confirmation hearing to be CBP Commissioner.