In his recent Lewiston Sun Journal op-ed (“Maine is not a haven of white-collar office workers,” Aug. 22), Thomas Farley expressed his opposition to President Biden’s proposal to create a pathway to citizenship for people who are living in the United States as undocumented immigrants.

Farley claims that, by helping people get the opportunity to work as U.S. citizens, we will take blue collar jobs away from those who were born here. As someone who has worked extensively on issues related to Maine’s workforce shortages, work credentialing, job training and adult education, I’d like to set the record straight on a few matters.

First, like the rest of the country, Maine is experiencing serious workforce shortages and demographic challenges. Almost every sector is in need of workers, so while Farley claims that blue collar jobs are at risk of being stolen, the reality is that they are at most risk of going unfilled. The pandemic has played a significant role in this problem, compelling many people to leave the workforce and retire early, go back to school or stay home to care for loved ones.

However, our current workforce shortage in Maine is an issue that people have been predicting for years. Eleven years ago, the Maine Department of Labor published a report warning that our state’s aging population will put a profound stress on our labor markets. We’re feeling that stress today.

It’s clear that, in order for Maine to have a strong economy, we need to fill our workforce shortages. We can do that by attracting more people to move to Maine, increasing access to job training programs and improving our credentialing systems. On all of those fronts, Democrats in Maine’s Legislature have made tremendous progress.

This year, we passed legislation that invests $20 million into our career and technical education programs, giving people the opportunity to train for good-paying jobs that fill critical workforce needs. Three bills I personally sponsored — LD 1684, LD 1533 and LD 149 — will expand workforce training programs and amend our credentialing system to make it easier for people to build their careers here.

By enrolling in job training programs, going to school, starting families and opening businesses, Mainers who are immigrants are filling critical positions and setting up our state for future economic success. They’re students, teachers, community leaders, employers and employees — and all critical parts of solving Maine’s workforce and demographic challenges.

I support President Biden’s proposal. Citizenship will give many of our friends and neighbors who are immigrants the stability and opportunities they need to deepen their roots in Maine, which will, in turn, enrich our communities and strengthen our entire state’s economy.

Rep. Kristen Cloutier, Lewiston

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