In 2018, Isalita Seixas fled Angola with her family. While working for the government, her husband spoke out against corruption he was seeing within his party. It was a tremendous risk.

“In Angola, we do not have the freedom to speak our minds,” Isalita says. Eventually, her husband was assaulted, and people started threatening her and her children, then 5 and 10. The family received asylum in Maine.

Isalita Seixas Submitted photo

When I met Isalita at a charity drive hosted by my public health company, she’d only been in the country six months. She’d just had her third child and had come to pick up diapers, wipes and other baby supplies.

She wasn’t used to accepting charity; she’d been an accountant in Angola. But she could already see the opportunities that Maine provided.

It shocked her, she said, that school was free for her children and that students were even provided healthy meals. “Getting to Maine and learning that was standard eased a lot of my fears about moving here,” she says. “It was different from Angola, where education is expensive, and some children are literally dying from hunger.”

At the same time, she was concerned about making headway with her career. It was impressive that after such a short time in the country — and with a newborn — she was already plotting her next career move. But she was disheartened to be told at the Lewiston Career Center that her foreign degree and professional experience weren’t enough to get hired to perform similar work here in Maine. Undeterred, she’d returned to the center to explore her options. “I told them I would take any accountant position, even accounts payable,” Isalita told me. “I just wanted a place to start.”


She learned she’d need to go back to school. A counselor showed her how to apply for academic scholarships, and when her baby was 6 months, Isalita started classes at Central Maine Community College. Over two years, her husband worked at a bakery, a staffing company and then Walmart to support their family, while Isalita earned her associate’s degree in accounting and raised their three children.

Today, she is a staff accountant at a community development financial institution in Brunswick. It’s a nonprofit lender and investor group that aims to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and promote prosperity throughout Maine. “I love my job and the people I work with,” she says.

Isalita is the perfect example of how Maine’s new arrivals can make a positive contribution to our community — if we give them a foot in the door.

Unfortunately, since the March 2020, a policy called Title 42, has kept that door closed for nearly 900,000 asylum-seekers, including over 215,000 parents and children. This policy, which the Biden administration has been trying to lift, undermines long-standing American asylum policy. That means the majority of new asylum applicants are turned away indefinitely.

There is some good news. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden Administration could end the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced many migrants to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases are decided. But with Title 42 still in place, only a small percentage of asylum-seekers will be able to take advantage of this step forward. The rest will remain in limbo.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is missing out on their contributions and talent — people like Isalita, whose work is helping to boost her state’s local economy.

“We are very positive, normal people who just want to do something with our lives and give back to our community because we were so well received here,” Isalita says of herself and the asylum seekers she knows in Lewiston. “That’s why we work hard — we feel lucky to have work permits and be able to pay taxes. Everyone should have that chance.”

On that subject, I must say, I agree.

Héritier Nosso is a health promotion coordinator and community organizer in Lewiston.

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