AUGUSTA — An anti-immigrant bill proposed by Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, that drew a torrent of criticism from Mainers who are sympathetic to newcomers fleeing war and oppression overseas failed to pass muster in the House on Wednesday.

The Republican lawmaker pushed a trio of related bills taking aim at cities that offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants and the resettlement agencies that help foreigners who arrive in Maine.

The most controversial of them — which would mandate that Maine cities and towns cooperate with federal immigration authorities to “transport aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States to federal facilities” — was shot down by a 59-77 margin in the Democratic-controlled House. Three Republicans and four independents joined with every Democrat to kill the measure.

Lockman proposed that municipalities that refused to cooperate would “lose all state funding, including state aid in education and revenue sharing.”

“We will not allow bills punishing Maine’s immigrants and refugees, our neighbors, to become law in our state,” said Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, House chair of the Judiciary Committee.

“Beyond the fact that we’re debating the future of human beings, immigrants have always strengthened Maine,” Moonen said in a prepared statement. “That’s as true today as it has been for the last 200 years. I’m proud that the House has swiftly rejected this bill.”

In testimony this spring, many Mainers attacked Lockman’s proposals.

“An attack on immigrants is an attack on Maine,” said Fatuma Hussein of Auburn, director of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. “We need to stand up for vulnerable populations and speak out against fear.”

Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, also took issue with Lockman’s take on immigration.

“I represent a city whose history, strength and character are defined by its diversity and history of immigration,” Libby said in a prepared statement.

“Lewiston is a city that has always exemplified the promise that America has made to immigrants — that our doors are open, our people are welcoming and our country is made better and stronger by the contributions of anyone, from anywhere, who shares our values of freedom, pluralism and democracy,” he said.

Libby said Lockman’s agenda “flies in the face of everything our city, our state and our country should stand for.”

Many of the state’s police departments are steering clear of controversy while focusing on improving relations with immigrants rather than trying to target them for deportation.

Mary-Anne LaMarre, executive director of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, called the proposal “a liability for county law enforcement” because officers are not trained to carry out the assignments eyed by Lockman.

Lockman said requiring more cooperation with federal immigration authorities is meant to protect public safety, including a bid to counter a threat from terrorists associated with Islamic extremism he claimed “are already operating here in Maine.”

“It’s time to make Maine safe again,” Lockman told lawmakers.

Hussein said Lockman’s bill “threatens the trust we have built with local law enforcement and the work we have done with them.”

Mohamed Ali Ibrahim of Lewiston said, “We hope that Maine will not take this direction. Making local law enforcement do the work of federal immigration agents will create a lot of fear, division, and confusion, and will destroy the trust and harmonious relationship built between law enforcement and immigrant communities for decades in Maine.”

In addition to the measure opposing sanctuary cities, Lockman also introduced bills to sue the federal government for failing to consult with the state on the placement of refugees and to go after the tax status of nonprofits that help immigrants and to make them liable for any terrorist acts by someone they assist.


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