Macdonald meets with Lewiston asylum seekers

LEWISTON — Mayor Robert Macdonald met with a group of asylum-seeking immigrants for two hours Wednesday afternoon discussing ways to preserve city General Assistance payments.

Macdonald said he expects the City Council will vote on whether to change city policy and begin denying payments to undocumented immigrants at its next meeting. The council's next scheduled meeting is July 15.

"Unless something happens between now and then, we'll have to make a decision," Macdonald said.

Macdonald has said he supports Maine Gov. Paul LePage's efforts to deny General Assistance benefits for non-citizens who do not have proper paperwork.

The governor announced last month that the state would stop reimbursing Maine's cities and towns for aid paid to undocumented non-citizens and people seeking asylum. That could mean a cut to the city of up to $170,000, Macdonald said.

LePage later declared the state would suspend all General Assistance reimbursement to cities that continue to give aid to undocumented non-citizens. That could mean a $550,000 cut in state aid to Lewiston.

The Maine Municipal Association said Monday it would ask the Maine Superior Court to decide if LePage could make that kind of change.

"If there is a solution to it, it won't come up at the City Council," Macdonald said. "Whether there's an injunction filed or the MMA files their paperwork or the governor decides to cut us off if we don't comply, we'll abide by whatever that is. But we need to decide where we stand otherwise."

Macdonald said the group of asylum seekers requested the meeting with him.

Abdoulkader Abdillahi, an immigrant from Djibouti seeking asylum in Lewiston, said the meeting did not settle anything or change any opinions.

Macdonald said there is not much he can do at this point.

"I know they are aggravated with me, but I represent the whole City of Lewiston and that's a substantial amount of money that we're talking about," Macdonald said.

Macdonald said the city has reduced City Hall hours by one hour and eliminated four staff positions, including the recreation director, because of cuts in the new budget.

"So we have some problems here, in decreased services," Macdonald said. "And this is a pretty good chunk of change for us. We're not a wealthy community."

Macdonald said he's sympathetic with asylum seekers.

"The worst part for them is that they have skills that they could use here, but they can't get a job because they don't have work papers," Macdonald said.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Citizen

Maybe if the state enforces this ruling we can start actually giving assistance to more of the people that actually live and work here. It is time that we slow down on our hand-outs to every country and immigrant that decides America is the land of opportunity. It has only become this to other countries while we have sacrificed the opportunities of those that have built this wonderful country!

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

My grandmother

Came to this country as a 2 year old brought here by her parents. She never went to school and was undocumented until her 90's when she had to learn enough English to pass the test. She raised a family, was a good wife and mother, faithful to her God and her church. I recall trudging alongside her, as a child, in the winter carrying pots of soup to help neighbors in need. Not much of a criminal really. The folks coming here are probably much like her but we have no way of knowing because the Immigration Service never gets around to finding out. Many other countries these days are overrun by refugees and it is shameful that some poor countries treat them better than we do. Just as the British Empire created the mess in Israel and in Pakistan, we are largely responsible for the atrocious conditions in Central America thanks to our Contra Wars. The chickens have come home to roost as they say. It is a mess, largely of our own creation, and history will judge us on how humanely or inhumanely we deal with it just as we are judged for the way we treated the native Americans.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

First of all Mr. Macdonald.............

Just because your a Republican, stop following and agreeing with Paul LePage. He will do nothing but lead you into more trouble. Second, consider the skills these people have acquired in their lives. A carpenter in Somalia, can drive a nail just as well here. It's the Republican Party, blocking the passage of any bills aimed at repairing this injustice. How can you on one side, tell someone they can't get a job, because you don't have the paperwork you need, Then on the other hand refuse to make any progress at changing their status, so they can acquire their Green Cards.
It's nothing but political games being played by Republican Congress and it's unfair to all of us.......................

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

How difficult can it be to provide work papers?

"The worst part for them is that they have skills that they could use here, but they can't get a job because they don't have work papers," Macdonald said.

________

Old MacDonald had a city, E, I E, I , O..........start with work papers, that would be a first step....that would add revenues and money spent in a city that desperately needs it, doesn't Old Mac see that?

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Given the general consensuses.............

Given the general consensuses, it would seem that everyone except the Republicans want this immigration problem addressed. There needs to be something done sooner rather than later. As long as this republican foot dragging is going on, the problem will continue to increase unabated. Sooner or later the GOP's constituents are going to demand results only by then it will be ten times more expensive to fix.
Until that happens we are going to have no choice but follow their same old game playing. I say change their pay to performance based pay scale. No work, no pay pretty simple really. Unfortunately the Republicans will block that fix as well..............

Actually even a large portion

Actually even a large portion of the Republicans want reform, and even approve of the Senate's version. But they are held hostage by the extremists in their party who brook no parting with their version of the orthodoxy and brand anyone who deviates a traitor to their lost cause.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I agree......

At the rate they are going I would say the entire Republican Party is on target to self implode any day now. This crap can't go on for ever...............

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

The proper term

would they are pure cowards and are more concerned about their paychecks and are terrified of the Tealibans of the Right wing terrorist.....they fear doing the right thing for the right reasons, because they are worthless......

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

They should start with that waste of taxpayers money;

SCOTUS Clarence Thomas ....... "say change their pay to performance based pay scale. No work, no pay pretty simple really."
his record is zilch on anything done for years....he is riding the wave on the peoples purse.....

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