AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills is just not contemplating an emergency declaration to deal with housing and different assist for a whole bunch of asylum seekers who’ve come to southern Maine in latest months, her workplace mentioned Wednesday.
It got here in response to questions a day after Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat like Mills, declared an emergency whereas citing greater than 20,000 individuals dwelling in pressured shelters throughout the state. That was up 80 p.c over a 12 months in the past, and he or she referred to as it “exponentially greater than our state has ever served” in an help program.
The inflow is an instance of a world downside hitting Better Portland and larger cities throughout the nation. Apprehensions of migrants on the southern border rose sharply final month, and the numbers of individuals declaring asylum hit a document excessive final 12 months.
Lots of of them, largely from African nations, have come to southern Maine and different areas nationally coping with elevated homelessness and housing shortages. Portland has been most affected. A brief shelter at a public area is about to shut this month, and metropolis leaders have referred to as on Mills and the state to coordinate a bigger housing plan.
On Wednesday, Mills spokesperson Ben Goodman mentioned the governor is just not contemplating an emergency declaration presently, saying the state will work with municipal leaders and advocates to “help the transition of immigrants into Maine communities and the workforce and to judge additional housing choices” for all individuals right here battling safe housing.
Massachusetts differs from Maine in that it has a right-to-shelter coverage. Healey’s emergency powers are related to those who Mills has, permitting each to challenge government orders governing affected coverage areas, resembling governors did at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been no calls from cities or advocates for Mills to declare an emergency, however Portland leaders have requested her to both name up the Nationwide Guard to assist construct transitional housing or endorse a stalled thought to accommodate asylum seekers at a Unity school campus.
Mills has not particularly answered these calls, however her workplace has been circulating a listing of the administration’s actions on the subject, together with opening 125 residences within the Portland space to asylum-seeking households, supporting emergency and transitional housing and expansions of schooling and well being providers.
Asylum seekers from Africa typically make harrowing journeys by boat to Brazil after which on foot to the southern border. Those that enter illegally however declare asylum are allowed to remain within the nation whereas awaiting immigration proceedings. They can’t work for not less than six months beneath federal legislation, one thing Maine state and federal policymakers need Congress to alter.
Final week, Mills introduced that she would set up an Workplace of New People inside her administration, tasking her coverage workplace with mapping out a plan for it by January. It was supported by enterprise and immigrant teams, however legislative Republicans signaled that they might be skeptical of funding the plan in the long run.
“Maine individuals can not hold the tempo with housing, well being care, workforce improvement and schooling wants of the 1000’s who will proceed to reach right here if the actual challenge of border management isn’t addressed,” Assistant Senate Minority Chief Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, informed Spectrum Information Maine final week.