Immigration debate heats up at Maine statehouse

Lawmakers hear testimony on immigration bills

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A Legislative committee heard testimony on several bills dealing with immigration.

The one that generated the most debate was LD 366. It would ensure that state and local governments comply with federal immigration or face sanctions.

Bill sponsor Larry Lockman, a Republican representative from Amherst, used the death of teenager Trey Arsenault to bolster his argument for his bill. Arsenault was gunned down in a Portland recording studio by Gang Majok, a Sudanese national who was granted asylum in this country. Arsenault’s mother was critical of authorities for not deporting Majok, who had previously been convicted of numerous crimes.

“Once again, this is a case of a career criminal non-citizen with a long criminal rap sheet”, Lockman testified. 

Lockman said if Portland officials upheld federal immigration laws, Arsenault likely would still be alive. He says under his bill, there will be consequences for communities.

“Towns and cities that continue to defy federal immigration laws by harboring illegal immigrants would lose all state funding including state aid in education and revenue sharing”, he said.

Opponents call it an anti-sanctuary city bill, that would keep people from coming to Maine. Besides the moral implications of it, the say it would also hurt the state’s economy. 

“As we struggle to keep our young, talented people here, we are gathering here to chase people out. This is a shame”, said opponent Claude Rwaganje.

Rebekah Novak was born in Ethiopia. She now lives in Hampden. She spent some time growing up in New York where she never felt welcomed. That all changed when she moved to Maine 

“Moving to Maine has been the most amazing experience of my life and I feel nothing but acceptance and love coming from everybody here, but this bill is threatening that. It would take that away from me and take it away from the community”, she said. 

A similar bill proposed by Governor LePage last year never made it to the full legislature for a vote. It was effectively killed, when House Democrats tabled it.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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