Battenfeld: Maura Healey and Michelle Wu face twin tests this week on migrants and homeless

Maura Healey and Michelle Wu face crucial tests this week as they reach self-imposed deadlines on limiting migrants and cleaning up the drug-riddled Mass and Cass neighborhood zone.

Healey is planning to stop admitting migrants and the homeless to motels and shelters on Wednesday but faces a legal challenge from a civil rights group.

Liberal-on-liberal crime can get especially ugly.

Healey is staring down a lawsuit from the Boston-based group Lawyers for Civil Rights, which argues that the state must give the Legislature 90 days’ notice before changing the state’s shelter system of handling migrants and homeless.

“The idea that the state would want to turn its back on children in desperate situations, forcing them to live in the streets, in cars, and in unsafe situations is appalling to many in the state,” Lawyers for Civil Rights litigation director Oren Sellstrom told WBUR.

Pretty tough words for a Democratic governor to hear – that you’re forcing homeless and migrant children to live on the streets.

Healey is so desperate not to appear tone-deaf to the migrant crisis that her office on Sunday night put out an “embargoed” press release announcing that the administration was partnering with the Office of Homeland Security to host a work authorization clinic for migrants in two weeks.

The non-news announcement was withheld from public release until 6:30 a.m. Monday so as to get a better bounce from the morning media. But Healey was nowhere to be seen on Monday because she had no public schedule. That way she could avoid pesky questions about the lawsuit or swelling numbers of migrants who are about to be turned away from shelter.

“We are glad that the Biden-Harris administration is hosting this clinic with us, which will help process work authorizations as efficiently as possible. Many shelter residents want to work but face significant barriers to getting their work authorizations,” Healey said in the statement. “This clinic will be critical for building on the work that our administration has already been leading to connect more migrants with work opportunities.”

You get it. A lot of self-congratulating.

Wu faces similar backlash from some liberals for passing an ordinance clearing out the encampments from the drug-ravaged Mass and Cass zone. Her administration will be sending in police on Wednesday to remove tents and clean up the open drug dealing that has been going on – hopefully to arrest a few criminals as well.

The city has reserved extra beds to house the homeless living at Mass and Cass but won’t let them build any new tents.

Several progressives on the council voted against the ordinance but not enough to block it.

But civil rights advocates will be watching closely to see that police don’t go over the line or simply push people out onto the streets. Wu will face stiff blowback from her progressive friends if that happens so she’s hoping for a smooth transition.

Mayor Michelle Wu is taking the tents down on Mass and Cass tomorrow. (Herald file photo)


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