Welcome To Maine

In June, some four hundred asylum seekers from the Congo, who made their way across the Atlantic, through the South American jungles, up Central America, through Mexico and finally arriving at an ICE detention center in San Antonio, Texas, said they wanted to live in Maine.

According to the front page article in the Portland Sunday Telegram (note, you can no longer find this article using a Google search), the refugees said they wanted to live in Portland because it was a welcoming place, it provided public assistance and it was easy to disappear into the community if the asylum request was not approved.

Portland city officials were surprised and unprepared for the refugees, who appeared without prior warning.  The city housed them in the Expo Center, which is also home for the minor league basketball team and is used for various activities throughout the year.  Catching the city by surprise, in the first five weeks Portland has spent $200,000 on emergency aid, including staff salaries and overtime.

City officials have been working to place the Congolese in permanent housing, some of which is located in towns outside of Portland.  They have met with pushback from the refugees, who do not want to live outside of the city.  City rules state that anyone who refuses permanent housing must vacate the city’s emergency housing the next day.  Many of the refugees do not understand this and the city has not yet enforced this.  However, the city has made commitments for the use of the Expo Center in the fall, so all of the refugees must be gone by August 15th.  If they are forced out of the Expo Center, their fallback housing is the Salvation Army, as all of Portland’s emergency shelters are full.  However, the Salvation Army only provides overnight beds.  The refugees would have to leave every morning by seven AM, taking their belongings with them and could not return until after six PM.  Also, the Salvation Army does not provide meals that the city supplies at the Expo Center.

Local organizations placed several Congolese refugees in Brunswick, Maine.  One town board member, Sarah Singer, suggested the town hire a ‘cultural broker’ to make it easier on the refugees to adjust to life in Maine.  Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Westbrook, residents told the town council they were generally not opposed to helping the refugees as long as it did not raise taxes, according to the Portland Press Herald article dated June 20, 2019. 

General assistance for a family of four in Maine is nearly $2,000 per month, with the state paying 70 percent and the town paying the balance.  The average household income in Maine is slightly more than $56,000, which is over $4,000 a year less than the national average.  The unanticipated drain on local budgets will cost the town residents more in taxes almost immediately.  Most small towns do not have the money for the influx of these refugees in their municipal budgets.

Welcome to Maine, a microcosm of America’s out of control immigration system, where people show up from around the world, knowing that Americans will take care of them.  It sounds right until you get the bill.  Remember, the government does not have any money of its own.  It is all your money, just spent by someone else. 

Maybe this is a good eye opener.  If you have to open your own wallet to pay for food and rent for somebody who you never met before, you will understand why President Trump wants to get a handle on our immigration system.

Meanwhile, as John Snow said, winter is coming.  In ten weeks it will be mid-October and if you are from the equator, you are in for a surprise.

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