Two bills introduced to the Maine Legislature in March 2018 at Governor LePage’s request will harm Maine’s economy by sending the message that Maine is not a welcoming state for immigrants.
- LD 1833, An Act to Facilitate Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities, sponsored by Rep. Laurence Lockman, would require all government entities in Maine to communicate and share information with federal immigration authorities, and require law enforcement agencies to act as immigration agents. This legislation is completely misguided for multiple reasons.
- The bill is a solution in search of a problem. No government entities in Maine, including law enforcement agencies, fail to cooperate with federal immigration agencies, unless doing so would be in conflict with other federal laws or the U.S. Constitution.
- Immigration law is extremely complex, and local authorities will inevitably violate the rights of U.S. citizens and others if they try to act as immigration agents. Profiling of individuals with foreign accents or imperfect or limited English will result, and indeed already has. (A case in point was the testimony describing a U.S. citizen originally from Italy who had stopped to check his tire, and was doggedly questioned by a Maine state trooper who did not understand that U.S. citizens need not carry any proof of their citizenship).
- Immigrants nationwide worry that myriad changes at the federal level threaten their continued permanent residency or other legal status. This bill will make Maine’s immigrants afraid to contact local police if they are victims of or witnesses to crimes, and will make local communities less safe.
- The bill sends a hostile message at a time when Maine needs to be welcoming to immigrants in order to have thriving communities and a vibrant workforce.
MeBIC testified in opposition to LD 1833. It was voted out of committee on partisan lines. MeBIC will continue to oppose LD 1833 as it heads to votes in the House and Senate.
- LD 1873, An Act to Align State-funded Benefits with Federal Eligibility Standards, introduced by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, would deny low-income Maine immigrants, including permanent residents and refugees, safety net public benefits. It would also target vulnerable asylum seekers who have come to the U.S. and Maine seeking protection. Federal immigration laws deny them work permits, and the ability to support themselves, until their asylum applications have been pending for more than 180 days.
Maine law presently allows asylum seekers to receive “general assistance” (GA) in order to have a bare subsistence level of support, while they wait for their work permits, and up to a maximum of 24 months. Asylum seekers overwhelmingly want to work and do so shortly after getting their federal work permits, quickly contributing more in income and sales taxes to the State and their localities than they received in G.A.
GA is a short-term investment with long term gain for Maine, as these asylum seekers contribute to our communities, our tax base, and our workforce. MeBIC will oppose LD 1873. Read MeBIC’s talking points here.