The Corps of the Cadets from Army line up on the field prior to the 123rd playing of the Army-Navy game on December 10, 2022, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
CNN  — 

Nearly two months before the march of Cadets and Midshipmen into Gillette Stadium for the annual Army-Navy game, another battle is brewing in Massachusetts.

The fight is far more consequential than a football game and revolves around the state’s 40-year-old right-to-shelter law, which guarantees families with children a place to stay if they meet certain criteria.

One of the most storied rivalries in sports, dating to 1890, the meeting of the service academies will take place in New England for the first time on December 9. It coincides with a growing influx of migrants in Massachusetts – the only state with a right-to-shelter law.

The disparate events collided in recent days when a New Jersey-based travel agency said 60 of its reservations for game weekend were canceled by a hotel management company that needed the rooms to house migrants.

Those who had booked rooms “are either active military, military families, retired military, or parents of cadets or midshipmen,” said Mark Mansbach, president of Hillside Travel Agency.

Hillside Travel had reserved blocks of rooms in multiple hotels near Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, according to Mansbach. The properties are part of Giri Hotel Management, which owns 45 hotels across New England, according to the company website.

CNN has sought comment from the hotel company, which released a statement about the cancellations to CNN affiliate WCVB.

“We consider it a privilege to offer a safe haven to those who have been forced to flee their homes due to challenging circumstances,” the company statement said.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat who declared a state of emergency in August due to the rising number of migrant families, said the room cancellations were made by the hotels. The Executive Office of Veterans’ Services will assist any service members needing rooms on game weekend, Healey told CNN affiliate WBZ.

“We are going to make sure that everybody is housed, and everybody has a place to stay – including anybody who had booked and had their room changed,” Healey said of people attending the Army-Navy game.

CNN has sought comment from the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services.

With as many as 1,000 families entering shelters in Massachusetts every month, Healey has called on the Biden administration to streamline work authorizations and funding to states coping with the migrant surge. New York, Chicago and Washington, DC have taken similar steps.

The migrant surge in US cities is tied to an increase in border crossings. Border Patrol apprehended more than 200,000 migrants crossing the US-Mexico border unlawfully in September, according to a Homeland Security official, marking the highest total this year.

Migrants apprehended at the border can be placed in fast-track deportation, voluntarily return to Mexico, be detained, or be released from custody as they go through their immigration proceedings.

Massachusetts state Rep. Peter Durant, a Republican, told CNN Saturday the state’s right-to-shelter law is outdated and needs to be amended. A possible fix could be guaranteeing shelter to families who have been legal residents of Massachusetts three years or more, he said.

In response to the canceled reservations during Army-Navy game weekend, Durant said he’s pushing legislation requiring hotels to “keep their commitments to those who have already booked rooms.”

Since 1983, Massachusetts has been the nation’s only right-to-shelter state, meaning eligible families with children cannot be denied shelter if they meet certain criteria.

“We need to modify this right-to-shelter law that we have here in Massachusetts because it’s just creating a magnet for everybody to come in,” Durant said. “What we’re seeing here in the Army-Navy game is really just kind of these broad tentacles of the results of this law taking effect.”

Durant added, “Massachusetts is getting 1,000 new families every month. And so, you know, that can be a small or a large portion of what’s coming across the border. But clearly, they know something. They’re coming up here for a reason. It’s certainly not for the climate.”

New York City has a more comprehensive right-to-shelter law since the 1970s, guaranteeing shelter to anyone who needs it. Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday asked a judge to suspend the mandate, saying the city was struggling to house more than 122,700 asylum seekers that arrived from the southern border since the spring of 2022. A more limited right-to-shelter provision exists in Washington, DC, during times of severe weather conditions.

“We don’t want to vilify the migrants,” Durant said. “The fact of the matter though, is that we as legislators have a responsibility to our citizens first. We have to provide for them. We have to spend their money wisely. What a lot of my colleagues are saying is, ‘This is now unsustainable. We can’t just keep taking people in.’”

Jeffrey Berry, professor emeritus of political science at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said the hotel room cancellations during the Army-Navy game has brought the migrant issue to the fore for many state residents.

“It’s a pretty limited number of people who are inconvenienced by the hotel reservation cancellations,” Berry said Saturday.

“Massachusetts has a lot of hotels… And other rooms can be found. You know, the biggest tourist attraction this time of year is leaf peeping and it isn’t really time for that yet. So there should be plenty of hotel rooms.”

Referring to the canceled reservations, Berry said: “There is no fury over migrants here in Boston, but there is a bad taste in the way that the veterans were treated by these hotels.”