AUGUSTA – House Republicans today commended Gov. Paul LePage for rescinding a policy that barred state employees from inquiring about the citizenship status of individuals applying for welfare benefits. In repealing the policy, which dates back to 2004, the governor said he wants to take care of Mainers first.
The executive order creating the policy effectively made Maine the only so-called “sanctuary state” in the nation, where people in the country illegally could apply for welfare on an equal footing with citizens and legal residents.
A recent study by the Federation of American Immigration Reform estimated that Maine spends some $66 million per year on education, medical care, incarceration and public assistance for people in the United States illegally.
Rep. Phil Curtis (R-Madison), leader of the House Republicans, said the governor’s repeal of the policy will protect taxpayers and send notice that Maine is no longer a “safe haven” for illegal aliens. “There are dozens of sanctuary cities across the country, but Maine had become the only sanctuary state,” he said. “When you provide a safe haven for people here illegally, you obviously encourage more of them to come. We welcome people to Maine, but they must be lawfully in the country.”
“The governor deserves credit for recognizing the costs to taxpayers of providing benefits to people here illegally,” said Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden), assistant leader of the House Republicans. “At a time when the state is experiencing deep fiscal problems, there is no reason that we should devote scarce resources to people who shouldn’t even be in the country. The governor took a stand for common sense and fiscal responsibility.”
Rep. Beth O’Connor (R-Berwick), a first-term legislator, also focused on the financial impact of undocumented aliens. “When I hear arguments in favor of providing benefits for illegal immigrants, the focus is never on the individuals who are forced to pay the taxes to fund them,” she said. “I have no problem if concerned citizens lend a hand to these folks and help them to a path to legal residence. But I have a big problem when the government forces taxpayers to hand over hard-earned cash to pay for people who are here illegally. Many citizens are struggling themselves.”
Rep. Rich Cebra (R-Naples) has been an outspoken critic of the “sanctuary state” policy for years. “This policy was misguided from the outset,” he said. “I’m delighted that Governor LePage has corrected the mistake. As a sanctuary state, it didn’t matter if welfare applicants were illegal aliens or not; they could sign up for the full panoply of benefits, no questions asked.”
“It seemed clear that the policy violated federal law,” Rep. Cebra added. “It is a federal crime to ‘aid, abet, assist, encourage or induce’ an illegal alien to remain in the United States. Something like this could never have happened in the America of 50 years ago. The people would not have tolerated it. In repealing this policy, Governor LePage is standing up for law and order, fiscal responsibility and traditional American values.”