PORTLAND — Maine’s Republican governor said Thursday that the state’s largest city should face an audit over his accusation that it has used state money to assist immigrants who are living there while seeking asylum.
Gov. Paul LePage’s comments during a morning appearance on WGAN-AM marked the second time this week he’s used a radio interview to criticize Portland about immigration.
LePage repeated a claim that Portland has broken the law by giving financial assistance to immigrants who have not attained residency. Democratic Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling has disputed the claim and called for LePage to take it back.
LePage said he trusts Portland is “not doing it right now” but he still thinks an audit would verify whether misappropriation of public money has happened in the city.
The governor has a history of sparring with communities in southern Maine, the most liberal part of the state, and his criticisms of Portland frequently center on immigration.
“If they are undocumented and have not applied, they should be reported,” he said. “I’m sorry, that’s how it works.”
Julie Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Strimling, said the accusation is baseless, and that Portland follows the rules.
“We have complied fully with the law and look forward to moving on,” she said.
General Assistance funds are used to help people pay for basic necessities such as food. LePage’s budget proposal includes $12 million in cuts to the General Assistance program.
The governor said during an appearance on WVOM-FM on Tuesday that the state shouldn’t pay for such cash benefits for immigrants who are seeking political asylum.
Portland’s City Council amended city rules last year so only local money would be used to benefit immigrants who haven’t applied for asylum yet.
LePage also said during his radio appearance that the Republican mayor of Lewiston, Robert Macdonald, has reached out to the state for help related to immigration. A call to Macdonald was not immediately returned.