It’s unfortunate that Republican legislators at the Statehouse in Augusta have thrown in the towel and joined with left-wing, open-borders Democrats in their relentless campaign to make Maine a more attractive destination for the thousands of illegal immigrants breaching America’s porous southern border every day.
Unfortunate, but not unexpected or unprecedented.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the temptation to sign on to a purely symbolic resolution asking the feds to let asylum seekers go right to work within 30 days of stepping off the bus in Portland. It’s better than having them on welfare while their asylum claims are processed, right?
No, it’s not. And here’s why.
The legislators and lobbyists making this argument need to brush up on the history of the work prohibition. They seem to have missed the point about why federal law requires asylees to wait six months before they can apply for a work permit.
That waiting period was originally adopted by the Clinton administration – and then extended to a full year by the Trump administration – out of concern that some migrants might apply for asylum primarily as a means of getting a work authorization. Asylee status was never intended as a fast track to getting a job in the United States while your application is pending.
But that’s exactly what’s happened.
Statistics from the US Department of Justice indicate that out of every 100 aliens who claimed a credible fear of persecution between 2008 and 2019, only 14 were granted asylum.
Given that history, the waiting period for work permits made perfect sense under the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. And it makes even more sense today under the Biden administration, with tens of thousands of non-citizens entering the country illegally every month across America’s wide-open southern border.
No serious person believes any of the aliens who ultimately lose their asylum claims will self-deport when that happens. They’re here to stay.
And regardless of whether they’re working or on welfare, where are they supposed to live?
Maine is currently in the grip of a monumental housing crisis that’s getting worse by the day. While life-long Mainers languish for years on affordable housing waitlists, the non-citizen newcomers are going to the head of the line for brand-new apartment units. The first two years will be rent-free, thanks to an emergency housing allocation of $22 million in last year’s supplemental budget that won overwhelming support from Republican lawmakers. The vote was 119 to 16 in the House.
Add to the cost of free housing for illegals, the cost of hiring scores of new ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers. This was already a huge problem before the latest surge of border-crashers into Portland that began during the summer of 2019.
In 2018, students in Lewiston schools spoke 34 different languages. In Biddeford, 22 languages. At the time, those districts ranked among the worst in the state in terms of student achievement.
Fast forward to 2023. To pay for the dramatic increase in enrollment of non-English speaking students in the past year, property taxes in Brunswick, Portland, South Portland, and Saco are going up sharply.
But even if all the asylum seekers went to work tomorrow, does anyone seriously believe they will pay enough in taxes to come anywhere near offsetting these housing and education costs? They will need child care and transportation, won’t they? If that’s not daunting enough, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) has proposed the mother of all magnets: free healthcare for non-citizens! Ironically, her push for Medicaid-for-all will give the newcomers an incentive to work fewer hours, to limit their income lest they lose their free healthcare coverage.
My point is that Maine doesn’t need any more magnets drawing poor, non-English speaking foreigners to settle here. What’s in it for us Deplorables? Driving down wages doesn’t benefit anyone but the country-club, Chamber-of-Commerce, professional class that wants to increase profits at the expense of hardworking Mainers – and simultaneously save money on landscaping and domestic help in their upscale neighborhoods.
When the Old Town pulp and paper mill – right up the Penobscot River a few miles from where I live – re-started in 2019 after being shut down for four years, over 1,000 people applied for 130 open positions. Do we really want to force unemployed and under-employed Mainers to compete for scarce mill jobs with wave after wave of mostly bogus “asylum seekers”?
While nominal Republicans and some conservatives may rationalize their admittedly “symbolic” request for a waiver from the feds as a gesture of good will, I’m afraid their virtue-signaling will not end well. They are playing into the hands of radical Leftists who have loudly declared their contempt for Maine’s unique culture and heritage, vowing to radically transform Maine’s demographic profile.
Former Speaker of the House Mark Eves (a Democrat), in concert with former state Senator Roger Katz (a Republican), embody the bipartisan consensus that Maine is just too pale-skinned to pass progressive litmus tests for diversity.
Mark Eves put it this way when he ran for Governor in 2018: “Maine’s whiteness is bad news.” He went on to warn, “Maine is going to be in trouble if it can’t attract a more diverse population.”
(Can you imagine a candidate for mayor of Baltimore telling voters that the city’s “blackness” is bad news? That the city will be in trouble if it doesn’t attract more whites?)
Roger Katz introduced legislation in 2017 to create a new Cabinet-level office to attract, educate, and retain “new Mainers” – specifically, foreign-born non-whites with higher birth rates than the old white Mainers who already live here. Katz opined that Maine’s lack of ethnic diversity “is not something to be proud of”, although he gave no clue as to how many non-whites need to settle here before we can be proud of Maine again.
Eves and Katz comprise the ugly face of race-based identity politics in Maine. Their rhetoric is a reminder of David Horowitz’s warning that inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out. And make no mistake, the campaign to transform Maine’s demographic profile is a racist, totalitarian enterprise.
I speak to conservative-minded Mainers every single day. And never once have any of them boasted about Maine being the “whitest” state in America. Nor should they. But should we be ashamed?
Will we allow the diversity fascists to shame us into passing more magnet laws to attract “new Mainers” for whom we have neither the housing stock, nor the educational resources, nor the hospital capacity to support? Enough is enough. The border-crashers are a net drain on our economy, and will drive down wages for Maine citizens of every color and creed who are already here and working hard to provide for their families.
Republicans who align with the open-borders crowd, even in a “symbolic” way, are doing a disservice to their constituents, and to the state of Maine.