Amid public debate over a bill at the State Legislature that would eliminate philosophical and religious opt-outs from state vaccination requirements, the vice-chair of Maine’s GOP seized the opportunity to blame immigrants to Maine for the rise in illnesses that are vaccine-preventable, with a tweet on the official party Twitter account.
This scapegoating of immigrants continues a theme perpetuated by Maine’s former governor Paul LePage, who without any factual basis, blamed immigrants for Hepatitis, the “Ziki fly” (sic), and other illnesses.
MeBIC applauds members of the Republican Party, such as Senator Dana Dow, and former Senator Roger Katz for speaking out against the ignorance and xenophobia that the vice-chair’s tweet represents. But the Maine GOP has remained silent, and the tweet was still up on the Maine GOP’s Twitter feed as of this writing.
Immigrants are an asset. Maine needs immigrants and their energy and talents to have vibrant communities and a strong workforce and economy. If the Maine GOP wants the state to thrive, it should be tweeting messages to welcome, not to vilify, immigrants to Maine.
And the Maine GOP should not spread misinformation about immigrants and vaccinations in order to sow division. A map of vaccination rates shows that public elementary schools in Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Eliot, Greenville, Rangeley, and Winslow, among others, have far lower vaccination rates than those in towns with higher noncitizen populations such as Portland and Lewiston.
In reality, before gaining admission to the U.S., all immigrants and refugees are required to prove that they are up to date on all vaccinations recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control. If not, they will be re-vaccinated, unless the vaccinations are medically contraindicated. All children of asylum seekers and other noncitizens must show their vaccination records or receive vaccinations under the same terms as native-born Maine children before they can attend school.
The Maine GOP should take down its offensive and divisive tweet, and embrace the immigrants who are vital to Maine’s current and future prosperity, just as they were to Maine’s past.