Putting Maine people first is the way to move state forward

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I am not losing any sleep over reports that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins won’t be supporting my campaign for re-election to the Maine House of Representatives.

Apparently, her abrupt decision was triggered by my use of the phrase “war on whites” in an email blast opposing passage of Sen. Roger Katz’s LD 1492, “An Act to Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers.”

In his written testimony, Katz asserted that Maine’s status as the whitest state in America is “nothing to be proud of.” He went on to say that immigration is “a social justice issue,” and that if we want a bright economic future, Maine needs to attract more non-white immigrants who don’t speak English and have higher birth rates than native Mainers.

Katz is not alone in pushing race-based identity politics in Maine. In fact, liberals’ obsession with skin color and ethnicity rears its ugly head frequently on both sides of the aisle in Augusta.

Former Speaker of the House and now Democrat candidate for governor Mark Eves told a gathering of Maine People’s Alliance activists last summer that, “Maine’s whiteness is bad news.” He went on to say, “Maine is going to be in big trouble if it can’t attract a more diverse population.”

Imagine for a moment a candidate for governor of Michigan giving a speech in Detroit — one of the least racially diverse cities in America with a population that is more than 84 percent African American. How would the news media and liberal politicians react if the candidate exclaimed that Detroit is way too black, and will never be prosperous if it doesn’t attract more white folks to settle there?

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The question answers itself.

It is worth noting that Sen. Collins weighed in on my “war on whites” comment only after a reporter cited the media arm of the liberal Maine Peoples Alliance as the source. Be mindful that the MPA lobbies for voting rights for non-citizens, so I understand its interest in pushing the Katz bill. And I understand its desire to smear opponents as white supremacists. But when did it become the tail that wags the mainstream media dog in Maine?

Here is the problem. When liberal politicians and their allies in the media play the race card, everyone loses. Baseless accusations of racism shut down debate and poison the well of civil discourse. It is impossible to have a rational debate with folks who engage in character assassination.

So I appreciate this opportunity to clear the air and offer some fact-based arguments for an immigration strategy that puts Maine people first.

Progressives tell the public that Maine’s future depends on state government devoting scarce resources to attract non-citizens who don’t speak English, but census data paints a very different picture. It turns out Maine had a 0.4 percent population increase from 2016 to 2017, the biggest increase in quite a few years. The vast majority of those newcomers came from other states, not foreign countries. It is a safe bet most, if not all, of these new Mainers are English-speaking U.S. citizens.

Yet the Katz bill is focused almost exclusively on teaching foreign-born immigrants how to speak English at a time when Maine taxpayers already foot the bill for more than $19 million a year for English-as-a-second-language (ESL) instruction in Maine schools. That sum represents a more than a 100 percent increase in just 10 years.

The next wave of foreign-born immigrants Katz wants to subsidize should be encouraged to go to Walmart and buy Rosetta Stone (English) for less than $140.

Meanwhile, Maine still has more than 1,600 elderly and disabled Mainers languishing on the notorious Medicaid wait lists because the state doesn’t have the money to pay for needed in-home services.

The nearly $2 million Katz wants for his bill would come at the expense of Maine’s most vulnerable. People who have lived here and worked here and paid taxes here all their lives are being shoved aside to make way for low-skilled and no-skilled immigrants, many of whom have no intention of assimilating.

I believe we can move our beautiful state from poverty to prosperity if we focus on putting Maine people first. Let’s make Maine a more attractive place for English-speaking U.S. citizens from other states to settle and raise families — regardless of race or ethnicity.

If that offends Sen. Katz and Sen. Collins, too bad.

Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, is serving his third term in the Maine House of Representatives. He is co-founder and president of New England Opportunity Project, a conservative nonprofit.

Larry Lockman

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