AUGUSTA (AP) – Migrant workers on Thursday presented Gov. John Baldacci with a United Farm Workers union flag and a sombrero decorated with the Mexican flag’s red, green and white in recognition of his support for their causes.

Baldacci, who was also serenaded with Hispanic songs during an observance in the Cabinet Room, said he was “overwhelmed” by the gesture and welcomed the diversity of the migrant workers’ culture in Maine.

“Every single person is important on our state,” said Baldacci, noting that his own grandfather emigrated from Italy at a time labor was needed to build paper mills. “I think Maine is enriched. It helps our state to be a welcoming state.”

The State House event also marked this Saturday’s 12th anniversary of the death of United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez.

As many as 12,000 migrant workers are employed on Maine farms, in food-processing plants and forests, depending on the season, according to Ben Guiliani, executive director of the Maine Migrant Workers’ Advocate Group. Most of those workers are Mexican, he said.

Baldacci “has been a friend of migrant workers since we met him in Congress,” said Guiliani. “He has always had an open ear for us.” Baldacci, a Democrat, is a former four-term congressman who represented Maine’s rural and forested 2nd District.

The migrants are particularly grateful to Baldacci for his executive order in April 2004 that bars state workers from disclosing information about a person’s immigration status, and from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.

The policy was one of the first adopted by a state and is similar to one adopted by Portland and other cities around the country. It identifies situations in which officials may be obligated to ask about a person’s immigration status, including when directed by federal law, court order or other legal authority. The policy was prompted by an immigration sweep in Portland that intimidated many immigrants.

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