Maine’s Welcoming Policies Attract a Wave of Asylum-Seekers
FAIR Take | April 2023
The city of Portland, Maine, nowhere near the southern border, is experiencing the border crisis firsthand. Already in 2023, more than 1,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Portland, many of them directed there by other recent border crossers.
The influx has caused a huge strain on Portland’s resources, particularly exacerbating the city’s housing shortage. Portland has been sheltering about 1,200 people per night, and an emergency shelter with 208 beds was filled to capacity on its opening night last month. Still out of space, the city last week opened its arena, the Portland Exposition Building, to house more migrants. As described by the Associated Press, the floor of the arena was “lined with cots as families carried in bags of clothes, food and personal possessions.”
The State of Maine has already provided immigrant advocacy groups about $1.2 million in taxpayer monies to help care for the asylum-seekers flooding to its cities. The state has also invested in housing for these aliens, including covering rent for up to two years for tenants moving into a new South Portland apartment building. Now, the Maine legislature is considering legislation that would expand health benefits to illegal aliens. Legislative Document (LD) 199 would expand Medicaid, known in Maine as MaineCare, to asylum-seekers, refugees, and illegal aliens. Legislators are proposing this expansion of benefits even though, according to a recent cost study by FAIR, illegal immigration is costing Maine taxpayers $90.4 million annually.
The Maine legislature also wants to speed up the process of issuing work authorization to these asylum-seekers, even though most never receive asylum. The Maine legislature recently passed legislation (LD 1050), which directs the Commissioner of Labor to request a federal waiver to allow asylum seekers to work in the United States after 30 days rather than waiting 180 days to receive authorization for employment. However, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review Adjudication Statistics, out of 100 asylum applicants who claimed “credible fear” between 2008-2019, only 14 were granted asylum.
The influx of asylum-seekers is the result of the Biden Administration’s lax immigration policies, which caused the crisis at the southern border to have made the northern border a hazard as well. Last month in the Swanton Sector (which encompasses Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York), border patrol agents reported 816 apprehensions and 371 “gotaways”. In March 2023, border patrol agents found 17 illegal aliens in a stash house in Lisbon, Maine. According to Holton Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent William Maddocks, the surge in the Swanton Sector resulted in a “sharp increase in the flow of illegal labor in and out of Maine.” He continued, “exploitation of the undocumented population will continue as long as there is no consequence.”
Coupled with Biden’s open-borders policies, Maine’s welcoming actions are acting as a magnet to encourage more illegal immigration into the state. According to one asylum-seeker, who was from Angola but traveled from Brazil to the United States, “there were people talking about this town Portland, where if you got there, they would help.” Individuals like Teresa head to places like Portland because there are established communities from their home countries and there are jobs and aid available. Unsurprisingly, Portland, a sanctuary city, has encouraged asylum seekers, and, according to Mayor Kate Snyder, welcomed them for decades.