By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – In March, says Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas, over 5,700 unaccompanied children were being held by US officials at the Mexican border. Today, it’s down to 700.

And while there’s been no formal announcement yet, a top Baker administration official says some of those minors are headed to Massachusetts, along with an estimated 1,900 refugees from around the world by fall of next year.

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“The Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants has been so busy working to get ready for the governor’s announcement of hopefully increasing what we’re going to see in Massachusetts,” says Jeff Goldman, chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Refugees and Immigrants.

Backlash against immigrants is a major political force in America and hardly unknown here in our relatively liberal state. But while Gov. Baker opposes sanctuary policies that block local cooperation with federal immigration police, his openness to welcoming immigrants and a new president pressing the case for sweeping reforms has given local activists hope that other changes, like allowing the undocumented to get driver’s licenses, might have new life.

“I’m hopeful we’ll get to the point where the public also supports this and the governor will too,” says Goldman.

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Could this be a moment when saner heads turn down the voltage on one of the most volatile political issues of our time?

“It would be a tragedy if the situation at the southern border derails the conversation we’re trying to have about immigration within our country,” says Goldman.

So what does the public think? The polls show a mixed bag: overwhelming support for legal immigration but not for increasing current levels; majority support for letting the Dreamers (undocumented adults who were brought here as children) stay, growing but still minority support for broader amnesty for the undocumented.

And while a majority are unhappy with the way the current border problems are being handled, they also strongly oppose separation of families.

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And on the two hot-button issues now facing Beacon Hill, there’s been modest support for the sanctuary city concept nationally, but the last poll we could find about driver’s licenses for the undocumented here in Massachusetts was a rout with 70% opposed.

Jon Keller