The 2019 State Legislature recessed on June 20, 2019. While not every bill that MeBIC supported was enacted, overall, it was an extremely positive session in terms of passage of bills that will help Maine welcome and integrate immigrants. MeBIC testified on fifteen bills during the legislative session. Here’s a review of the bills that were MeBIC’s highest priorities.
- LD 1841: Resolve, Directing the Commissioner of Profesional and Financial Regulation to Create a Working Group to Study Barriers to Credentialing. Many of Maine’s immigrants are highly educated but work at jobs far beneath their education and experience level because their foreign credentials are not recognized by their fields’ licensing boards. This bill creates a working group to study barriers to the credentialing of those with foreign education and skills. It instructs the Commission to make recommendations to reduce barriers, and to propose legislation, if appropriate, to the Committee on Innovation, Development Economic Advancement and Business (IDEA) by February 15, 2020. MeBIC supported this initiative, originally introduced in two separate bills, LD 532 and LD 769. You can learn more about these bills here.
- LD 1685: An Act To Facilitate Entry of Immigrants into the Workforce. Many immigrants eligible to apply for permanent legal status in the U.S. must wait months to get their initial work permits, and without an income, cannot afford to take initial steps that would improve their work readiness once they receive their work authorization, such as having their foreign credentials evaluated or translated at a cost of hundreds of dollars. LD 1685 creates a new Foreign Credentialing and Skills Recognition Revolving Loan Program administered by the Finance Authority of Maine, to pay specified costs since traditional loans aren’t available to these individuals, so they can get into better, higher paying jobs once they get their work permits. MeBIC proposed and was the lead organization supporting this legislation, sponsored by Rep. Kristen Cloutier, of Lewiston. It will take effect on September 1, 2019. You can read more details about the bill in this post, and read MeBIC’s testimony here.
- LD 1596: An Act to Enhance the Long-term Stability of Certain At-Risk Youth. This bill will help an estimated 10 to 30 noncitizen youth annually who are at-risk due to the death of, or abuse, neglect or abandonment by at least one parent, to gain state court protections, and provide them with a path towards permanent residency and stability. These youth are already here in Maine and their potential, and ability to contribute and be part of our workforce, is thwarted without the ability to get permanent residency. This bill remedies that. MeBIC was an active member of a coalition supporting this bill, sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey. It will take effect on September 1, 2019. Learn more about the bill here.
- LD 1475: An Act to Eliminate Racial Profiling in Maine. This bill aims to reduce the occurrence of racial and bias-based profiling that people of color, including immigrants, experience in Maine. It would mandate policies, training, and development of data collection methods aimed at eliminating profiling by law enforcement in Maine. You can learn more here about MeBIC’s reasons for supporting this bill, and read MeBIC’s testimony here. It will take effect on September 1, 2019.
- LD 777: An Act to Create a Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations. This bill will convene public and private stakeholders to do research and propose solutions to improve equity and justice for historically disadvantaged populations in Maine, with immigrants also included in its scope. You can learn more here about this bill.
Bills Carried Over to 2020
- LD 647: An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New State Residents To Strengthen the Workforce. This bill was MeBIC’s top legislative priority, and we marshaled strong business support for it, including from many of MeBIC’s coalition partners, as described in this post. The bill easily passed in both chambers, but it also had a high fiscal note. Even after scaling back the bill’s scope, it became clear that getting the bill funded this session was too heavy of a lift. The bill was carried over to next year, when we’ll try again to get it funded.
- LD 1077: An Act to Ensure Fair Employment Opportunity for Maine Citizens and Legal Residents by Requiring the Use of the Federal Immigration Verification System. This bill would have required all employers in Maine, whether public or private sector, to verify the employment authorization eligibility of new hires through the federal E-Verify system in addition to using the I-9 employment authorization verification form. This mandate would have unduly burdened smaller and seasonal employers. Read MeBIC’s testimony providing more detail about why this bill deserved to be defeated.
- LD 1449: An Act To Facilitate Compliance with Federal immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities. This bill is of a genre known around the country as a “show me your papers” bill, and would have turned local law enforcement agencies into proxy immigration agents. The first state to enact such a law was Arizona, whose tourist industry and economy suffered a severe hit as tourists, conventions, and others boycotted the state. Read more about why MeBIC opposed this bill in our testimony.