A rally was held this spring in favor of the state providing General Assistance for asylum- seekers who legally can’t work because they are waiting for the government to process their papers. Photo by Portland City Councilor Jon Hink
More than a thousand immigrant asylum-seekers, and their families in Maine, will be able to get General Assistance for the next two years despite Governor Paul LePage’s vehement opposition.
When the state two-year budget was finalized funding was cut for these immigrants. Most of these people are victims of violence and persecution fleeing to America. Immigrants similar to so many whom have built this country. The city councils in Portland and Lewiston were outraged, and immediately voted to fund assistance for these asylum-seekers as leaving them homeless and hungry would have been an act against humanity.
The majority of immigrant asylum-seekers have skills and trades that they can assimilate into Maine’s business world, given time. The problem is they have to wait for their papers from the Federal Government and during that waiting period they are not allowed to work. They have no way of supporting themselves or their families during this time.
It goes against the founding of our nation to persecute immigrants but LePage’s has falsely called these refugees, “illegal aliens.” His re-election campaign was fueled by his rants about our future citizens.
How did they manage to get lawmarkers to give them General Assistance with so much opposition from the governor?
Many lawmakers wanted to help the asslym-seekers but couldn’t do so within the budget process. So, a separate law, LD 369 allows those seeking asylum to receive General Assistance aid for a period of 24 months while their asylum claims are being processed made it through the legislature. It was on its way to being vetoed by the Governor with an override of the veto looking unlikely.
“LD 369, which clarifies that municipalities may support legally present immigrants, received bipartisan support in both the Maine House and the Maine Senate. It will now become law because the time for a Governor’s veto has expired,” said Representative Drew Gattine, House Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “This is a giant step forward for Maine. We need to continue to attract and retain talented and educated people to our State from around the world in order to replenish our skilled work force. New Mainers will play an important role in Maine’s future and we need to invest in their success.”
LD 369 and 19 other bills never received a Governor’s veto. Because the legislature is still in session, and hasn’t adjourned, the Governor missed his own veto deadline.
Although LePage disputes this fact the Maine Constitution is crystal clear.
"The Constitution and historical precedent make clear that these bills are law, " said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. "The Governor is wrong."
Article IV of the Constitution states: “If the bill or resolution shall not be returned by the Governor within 10 days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to the Governor, it shall have the same force and effect as if the Governor had signed it unless the Legislature by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall have such force and effect, unless returned within 3 days after the next meeting of the same Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution; if there is no such next meeting of the Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution, the bill or resolution shall not be a law.”
“The Maine Constitution is clear on this. The governor had 10 days to veto the bills, he did not veto them, and now the bills will become law,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “We do not have a government of one, and the governor cannot make up the rules as he goes along.”
Asylum seekers escaping persecution including torture, rape and detention are in the United States legally.
The LePage administration has been in a legal battle for the last year over General Assistance funding for municipalities, holding up payments to cities for legal non-citizens. Several cities, including Portland and Westbrook, sued the state. In a recent ruling, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren affirmed the state’s right to withhold funding for aid to immigrants who are ineligible under federal law.
The full list of the 20 bills that made it into law because the governor missed his ten day veto deadline are:
LD 25 "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Uses" Sponsored by Representative Diane Russell
LD 78 "An Act Regarding Limitations on Certain Storm Water Fees" Sponsored by Senator Nathan Libby
LD 113 "An Act To Reduce the Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses" Sponsored by Senator Roger Katz
LD 234 "An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015" (Emergency) (Governor's Bill) Sponsored by Representative Margaret Rotundo
LD 299 "An Act To Protect Children in Municipal and School Facilities by Requiring Boiler Inspections" Sponsored by Senator Dawn Hill
LD 369 "An Act To Align Municipal General Assistance Programs with the Immigration Status Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services" Sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey
LD 522 "An Act To Clarify a Recently Enacted Law Designed To Expand the Number of Qualified Educators" Sponsored by Senator David Burns
LD 722 "An Act To Strengthen Penalties for Abuse of General Assistance" Sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey
LD 756 "An Act To Enhance the Address Confidentiality Program Regarding Property Records" Sponsored by Representative Michelle Dunphy
LD 822 "An Act To Allow a Former Spouse of a Member of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System To Begin Collecting Benefits When the Former Spouse Reaches the Member's Retirement Age" Sponsored by Representative Patrick Corey
LD 870 "An Act To Amend the Maine Spruce Budworm Management Laws" Sponsored by Senator James Dill
LD 1013 "An Act To Prevent the Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners" Sponsored by Senator Anne Haskell
LD 1039 "An Act To Amend the Polygraph Examiners Act" Sponsored by Senator Anne Haskell
LD 1085 "An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning Receipt of a Request for Public Records"
LD 1108 "An Act To Protect Children and the Public from Electronic Cigarette Vapor" Sponsored by Representative Jeff McCabe
LD 1134 "An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Distribute Information Regarding Down Syndrome to Providers of Prenatal and Postnatal Care and to Genetic Counselors" Sponsored by Senator Amy Volk
LD 1185 "An Act To Establish the Municipal Gigabit Broadband Network Access Fund" Sponsored by Representative Norman Higgins
LD 1303 "An Act To Stabilize and Streamline the Department of Environmental Protection's Ground Water Oil Clean-up Fund and Maine Coastal and Inland Surface Oil Clean-up Fund" Sponsored by Senator Thomas Saviello
LD 1391 "An Act Regarding the Treatment of Forensic Patients" Sponsored by Representative Richard Malaby