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Maine lawmaker: Governor building ‘Taj Mahal’ homeless shelters

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(The Center Square) — Republican lawmakers in Maine are accusing Democratic Gov. Janet Mills of secretly paying for housing and other public benefits for migrants as part of an underhanded effort to boost the state’s population.

“It’s really striking to me that the folks in rural Maine are being told to do more with less, meanwhile Taj Mahals are being built for other folks in more urban places that aren’t even Maine residents, Maine citizens,” said Senate Majority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook.

The GOP lawmakers say state figures show more than $33 million from the state’s Emergency Housing Relief Fund, which pays for homeless shelters, has been used to provide housing for migrants. That’s about 63% of the money spent out of the relief fund and includes more than $1 million to provide legal assistance for asylum seekers, they said.

House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said taxpayer money is being “secretly” diverted away from pressing needs as Mainers languish on emergency housing wait lists

“Taxpayers need to know how their money is being spent,” Falukingham said at a Tuesday briefing. “This is unacceptable.”

The spending highlighted by Republicans included $14 million for a hotel in Saco to house about 85 migrant families and $5.3 million for a migrant shelter in Portland.

Stewart said the figures on migrant spending are “alarming” and blasted the Mills administration.

Republicans cited a 2019 economic development plan saying the state needs to add another 75,000 people to the workforce by 2030 to meet projected demands from the business community.

That report cited the need to “welcome foreign immigrants with programs that support rapid credential acceptance and that support housing and transportation needs” but it focused on “welcoming” college-educated immigrants.

“Maine will develop and implement a process for effective and timely recognition of credentials issued internationally, by the military, and by other states,” the report’s authors wrote. “This need is particularly pressing for foreign teachers; they are needed in the classroom to give new Mainers adult models to emulate and learn from, but the current process for certification is onerous.”

The Mills administration is also backing legislation that would create an “Office of New Americans” that would help asylum seekers and other immigrants integrate into the workforce and community.

Faulkingham ripped the Mills administration’s policies, saying the plans were examples of the state putting “migrants over Mainers” and that taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for the new arrivals.

“Just to put that number in perspective, it’s more people to move in than have moved in since 2000 – and Mainers are footing the bill,” he said.

Republicans blamed Democratic President Joe Biden for the influx of asylum seekers, accusing him of allowing an “open border” with Mexico. They say Biden’s immigration policies have a direct impact on Maine, straining emergency housing and social service programs, hampering Maine’s tourist economy and fueling a rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.

“Maine is not immune to Biden’s border policy,” Faulkingham said.

According to published reports, a Mills spokesman said the state is required by law to provide temporary housing and other public assistance for migrants as they wait for federal work authorization.

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