Immigration and Civil Rights Advocates Deliver Welcome Basket to Maine's New Governor

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
January 28, 2011 12:00 am

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ACLU of Maine
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Advocates Call for a Return to a Welcoming Maine

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CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Augusta – Today, immigration and civil rights advocates deliver a welcome basket to Governor Paul LePage and his family in the spirit of a welcoming Maine. The welcome basket, unveiled at an MLK Day march in Portland, contains books highlighting Maine’s diverse communities. Included are copies of Maine’s Visible Black History by Gerald E. Talbot and H. H. Price and In the Shadow of the Eagle: A Tribal Representative in Maine by Donna Loring. Also included is a sign-on letter addressing Governor LePage’s order, which opens the door to racial profiling and creates an unwelcoming environment in Maine.

“Maine has always been a welcoming state,” said Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Executive Director Beth Stickney. “Governor LePage should do all that he can to create a welcoming Maine for the immigrant families and children that Maine needs to ensure a vibrant and prosperous future.”

The letter, with 24 organizational signatures, asks for a meeting with Governor LePage to discuss his first action as Governor, rescinding an executive order and allowing state officials to ask for immigration papers of those who approach their agencies. Like the Arizona racial profiling law passed in April 2010, LePage’s order may result in racial profiling of Mainers regardless of their immigration status. The letter reads:

“… We are concerned about any gubernatorial action which may jeopardize the sense of security many communities have worked hard to realize. Because employees of the Department of Health and Human Services already request immigration documents when assisting Mainers applying for benefits, rescission of Executive Order 13 FY 04/04, dated April 9, 2004 and Executive Order 34 FY 04/05, dated February 28, 2005, effectively does not change this practice. It only increases the risk that applicants and those who accompany them such as interpreters, who look or sound foreign-born, will be treated differently in Maine. This in turn may well have a chilling effect on the national and international business community who may not consider doing business here because of a perceived climate of intolerance, which we know was not the administration’s intention.”

“Like the rest of the nation, Maine has always been a beacon of liberty and freedom,” said Brianna Twofoot, Field Director for the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “Mainers simply don’t believe in turning our backs on families and children who have fled famine and war to seek sanctuary in our state.”

Governor LePage’s order was the first of several anti-immigrant efforts in the State. Representative Kathleen Chase (R – Wells) introduced an Arizona-style immigration bill, the “show-me-your-papers” Arizona law.

“Given the impact the order is having in the diverse communities of Maine coupled with the Arizona style bill being introduced by Rep. Chase, it is critical that we openly discuss what is truly in the best interest of all Mainers before moving in a direction that harkens back to a racially segregated and legal discriminatory America,” said NAACP State Director Rachel Talbot Ross

“Racial profiling is degrading and humiliating,” says Maine People’s Alliance Immigration Organizer Ben Chin. “When racial profiling happens, all of our communities are less safe.”

The welcome basket will be delivered at 11:00am on January 28 to the Governor’s office in the State House. The link to the sign-on letter is below.

http://mclu.org/sites/default/files/Welcome%20LePage%20Sign%20On%20Lette…

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