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Across Massachusetts, people are rising up against the arrival of migrants. To some, the backlash seems racist.

People in this story

graphic with speech bubbles full of anti-migrant rhetoric with a mouth graphic shouting the bubbles.

The Boston Globe, March 2024

Beth Griffith wore a cap with the word “Love” written on it when she spoke in favor of allowing a catering service in Dedham to provide more meals for migrants during a Zoning Board meeting last month. But the meeting was full of rancor: People yelled and argued about migrants coming to their town. The chairperson repeatedly hammered his gavel to call for order.

One man complained Dedham could soon resemble Mass. and Cass, the epicenter of Boston’s opioid and homelessness crises. Some spoke out against “handouts.” Another man proposed making shelter residents work in exchange for housing. Griffith interjected that he was describing slavery.

“I was just so traumatized by this meeting,” said Griffith, a 42-year-old Dedham resident whose father is from Barbados. “The level of hate and vitriol that was displayed — it just really, really, really hurt me to my core.”

What happened in Dedham’s public meeting wasn’t an outlier. Across the state, a growing chorus of people are rising up against a wave of migrants arriving in their towns, complaining about the staggering costs of caring for them and warning about crime and too much change. To some, the backlash seems racist and ignores the economic contributions migrants can bring to a state grappling with a shrinking birthrate and an exodus of young people fleeing to cheaper locales.

In recordings of public meetings, people directed outrage and insults at migrants. A woman told the Yarmouth Select Board in September that migrants weakened the country. “This is part of the fundamental transformation of the country into a Third World hellhole,” she said.

At a Bourne Select Board meeting the same month, a woman claimed some migrant children were a threat. “They’re not brought up like our children. You might want to think that they’re all wonderful. But I’ll tell you, 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds . . . they will kill their parents,” the woman said.

Many immigration critics have also spoken out against the state’s push for more housing in communities dominated by single-family homes, advocates said. In Rockport, during a February meeting held by the Cape Ann Political Action Committee to discuss a state law allowing for more housing development, a man declared: “It’s supposedly affordability. It’s not. It’s housing for illegal immigrants,” he said.

To local advocates for immigrants like Jeffrey D. Thielman, president of the International Institute of New England, racism appears to be driving much of the growing opposition to migrants across the state. The organization helps immigrants resettling in the region, providing assistance with finding work, education, and obtaining citizenship.

Read more at The Boston Globe.

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