On March 3, 2020, Hancock County Commissioners were asked to consent to refugee resettlement. After considering testimony from community members and MeBIC, as well as letters from Catholic Charities Maine (CCM), the state’s only refugee refugee resettlement agency, and others, the commissioners voted unanimously to welcome refugees in the unorganized territories under its jurisdiction.
Various Maine counties have been asked to consider this question due to an Executive Order (E.O.) purporting to give states and localities veto power over refugee resettlement, even though CCM has never resettled refugees in those counties and has no plans to do so. That E.O. is currently enjoined, but the Hancock County Commissioners were asked to proactively address the issue regardless of the ultimate outcome of the litigation challenging the E.O.’s legality.
MeBIC testified in support of sending a message of welcome, given that Hancock County’s population has far more residents over age 65 than under 18 (24.6% versus 17.1%, respectively, in 2018), and needs more working age adults and families, regardless of their origins and immigration status. MeBIC also pointed out studies finding that refugees have higher workforce participation than native born U.S. citizens, are entrepreneurial, and that even if they receive federal assistance when they first arrive, within 10 years they have paid more in taxes than they ever received in public benefits.
For vibrant communities and a strong economy, MeBIC pointed out, all Maine counties should telegraph that they welcome immigrants and refugees. Hancock County Commissioners made a smart economic decision when they did just that.