Asylum seekers flooding into Portland, Maine, because of its liberal immigrant assistance programs are overwhelming the city’s budget, forcing local officials to reconsider being so welcoming and generous to refugees at citizens’ expense.
Helping migrants transition into the Pine Tree State’s most populous city is disproportionately sapping government funds that used to benefit local legal residents.
“Immigrants seeking asylum – primarily from African countries – take up nearly all of Portland's family shelter space,” TheBlaze reported. “The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the number of asylum requests has never been higher.”
Siphoning taxpayer funds
The small proportion of Portland’s population is taking advantage of the city’s generous resources allocated to immigrant relocation so that decision makers in the Northeastern city are now being faced with some serious budgetary problems that are calling for change.
"We have more cases than we've ever had," Maine’s Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Asylum Program Director Jennifer Bailey pointed out, according to TheBlaze. "The number of people coming is out of sync with resources."
A number of free services not offered to taxpayers – but put on their tab – are offered to immigrants coming to Portland.
“Asylum-seekers who make it to Portland can get financial assistance for lodging and other necessities funded by the state and the city – and also pro bono legal representation to help them formally apply for asylum,” TheBlaze’s Aaron Colen explained.
But the free ride comes at an expense and is depleting Portland’s budget as more and more asylum seekers are marking the city as a destination of choice to get the most out of the government.
“As more people have found out how immigrant-friendly Portland is, however, the city is starting to run out of resources to accommodate them,” Colen added. “Shelter space is running low, and funding is stretched thin.”
In fact, Portland has become an open billboard for migrants to the United States – so much so that Portland Social Services Division Administrator David MacLean is very concerned because resources for asylum seekers are already running out.
"The word is out there that our community is open to that population and has some assistance programs," MacLean told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). "Our local resources are not able to keep up."
Already wearing out their welcome?
It was noted by the national daily that more than 90 percent of shelter occupancy is being taken up by asylum seekers, as such free accommodations across the city are swelling past their limits.
Many Portland residents who once offered a welcoming hand to migrants escaping the so-called “refugee crisis” are now becoming wary of those swarming to take advantage of their city’s pro-immigration policies.
“This community has long offered a generous hand to immigrants,” WSJ’s Jennifer Levitz recounted. “But Maine’s largest city – population about 67,000 – is now struggling with an influx of asylum seekers, to the point where a local official is alerting shelters in other parts of the country to discourage people from heading here.”
And with the overwhelming majority of those receiving government handouts in Maine being illegal immigrants, a large debate over the state’s welcoming policy to migrants has been stoked.
“Some in Portland are split between continuing to increase the amounts of available government assistance – or possibly scaling back to prevent the overpopulation problem from becoming worse,” Colen informed. “According to WSJ, as many as 70 percent of those receiving state general assistance funds are noncitizens – and mostly asylum-seeking noncitizens.”
Besides Portland’s lax pro-immigration policies, other bureaucratic red tape exacerbates the immigration problem in the New England state.
“Part of the issue is that the process of applying for asylum can be lengthy,” Colen noted. “Just applying can take months and asylum-seekers are not able to get jobs for six months after they file. Then, they can only get federal benefits once they've actually been granted asylum.”
The strain on the local economy is said to be too much of a burden to support asylum seekers – because it takes too long before they are able to fully support themselves.
“MacLean said that the immigrants typically get jobs and are self-sufficient once they make it through that process, but it takes a lot of assistance to get them to that point,” Colen explained.
However, many are skeptical that things will be resolved anytime soon because of the recent focus on illegal immigration from the U.S.’s southern border in the wake of the longest partial government shutdown in America’s history –over a lack of funding for President Donald Trump’s 2,000-mile continuous border wall.
“The problem points to a larger debate about asylum policies,” Colen stressed. “The asylum issue receiving the most attention currently is the logjam of asylum-seekers coming through Mexico from Central America.”
Taking over Portland?
Population statistics indicate that immigrants are overtaking Portland, as legal residents are quickly becoming outnumbered by those coming from abroad due to the city’s lax immigration policies.
“Between 2011 and 2016, foreign-born persons accounted for over 75 percent of the city’s growth, according to a city report …” the Daily Caller divulged. “While Portland has not embraced ‘sanctuary city’ policies, asylum seekers largely consider the city hospitable to their presence and needs.”
Even though Democrats and other open borders advocates claim that increased immigration is a good thing, it has been maintained that “non-meritorious” asylum seekers from Central America have crowded out and displaced legitimate applicants for jobs across America.
“An expanded labor force is not undesirable, but the city wants to attract those who will contribute and help Portland succeed – rather than drain its resources,” the Daily Caller’s Grace Carr explained.
Maine Heritage Policy Center Communications Director Jacob Posik – whose group functions as a conservative think-tank that promotes public policies to promote free enterprise – expressed his reservations about wholeheartedly inviting more and more asylum seekers to Portland.
“We certainly need the [labor force] help,” Posik conceded, while speaking with WSJ. “But, if we’re attracting people to come here, we should certainly do it in a responsible way that isn’t strangling resources.”