PORTLAND (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage’s administration wants to move a lawsuit over municipal welfare benefits to federal court.

The Maine Municipal Association and two cities filed the lawsuit in the Cumberland County Superior Court last month. It challenges the administration’s directive that municipalities not provide general assistance benefits to immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

The Republican governor’s office said Friday that it filed a notice of removal in the U.S. District Court in Portland to have the lawsuit moved to federal court. His office says that’s the best place for the lawsuit since federal issues are involved.

The administration says the policy will bring the state in compliance with 1996 federal law that says those who are in the country illegally can’t receive local benefits.

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