By Rep. Lawrence Lockman
Should Maine taxpayers continue to provide welfare and other public assistance to illegal aliens, including Islamic State terrorists who have settled in Maine posing as refugees?
That’s the question columnist Jill Goldthwait refuses to address. Her ad hominem critique of my speaking engagement at the University of Southern Maine last month (“Banning Rep. Lockman would have made liberals look bad,” Feb. 23, 2017) shed no light whatsoever on the subject matter of my talk.
Goldthwait had ample opportunity to browse the multiple media reports about what I had to say at USM on the subject of immigration. I understand that she disagrees with me, and regards me as an utterly deplorable human being. Fair enough. But is it too much to ask that she make an attempt, however feeble, to engage with anything I said?
Surely Goldthwait is aware that the FBI is investigating Islamic State terrorist cells in all 50 states. And she must know about the two ISIS fighters who came to Maine as refugees, signed up for welfare benefits, and then returned to the Middle East to die on the battlefield as soldiers of Allah.
Here’s the big picture that makes Goldthwait and her fellow progressives shudder: Donald Trump rode a wave of populist indignation against the Beltway elites all the way to the White House. Trump’s hard line on illegal immigration launched and sustained his campaign, particularly among rural voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. Those voters rejected Hillary Clinton’s vision of a world without borders. And because elections have consequences, we are now beginning the process of securing our porous borders to make Maine and America safe again.
Recall that in 2004, Governor John Baldacci signed an executive order that turned the entire state of Maine into a harboring haven for illegal immigrants. Baldacci’s decree forbade state employees from asking anyone applying for state benefits about their immigration status.
Governor Paul LePage rescinded that order on his first day in office in 2011, putting an end to Maine’s open borders policy. LePage turned off one of the magnets that was drawing illegals to Maine. But there was no way to undo the damage already done by Baldacci’s harboring-haven order.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (www.fairus.org), Maine has an illegal immigrant population of about 5,000. Obviously, that number is not precise or exact. It is an estimate, but it is consistent with the federal government’s estimate of 11 million illegal aliens nationally. FAIR estimates the cost of those 5,000 illegals to state and local taxpayers at $41 million annually. Because the illegals pay only about $1 million a year in state and local taxes, Maine taxpayers bear a burden of more than $40 million a year to provide illegals with education, law enforcement, public assistance and general government services.
Portland, Maine, continues to welcome and subsidize illegals. The city passed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” ordinance in 2003 forbidding police and city employees from inquiring into anyone’s immigration status. City leaders boasted at the time that they were following the lead of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami and Denver.
Two years ago, Portland city councilors took $1.7 million appropriated by the Legislature for state aid to education and diverted that money from classrooms to an account that gives welfare benefits to noncitizens, including illegal immigrants. That money would have paid for hiring at least 25 new teachers, buying 150,000 textbooks, or giving 320 teachers a 10 percent raise.
My bipartisan bill LD 366, An Act to Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities, has been referred to the Judiciary Committee for public hearings. It would require all municipalities in Maine to comply with federal immigration law, and it would prohibit policies that forbid police officers from initiating an inquiry into anyone’s immigration status.
Towns and cities that continue to defy federal immigration law by harboring illegal immigrants would lose all state funding, including state aid to education and revenue sharing. Citizens who are harmed by the criminal activity of illegal aliens would have legal recourse to sue the politicians who enable such policies.
Bottom line: we need to get our priorities in order. Maine is a poor state with limited resources.
As long as we have a single veteran not getting the very best care we can provide, and as long as we have any elderly or disabled Mainers who have lived here and worked here and paid taxes here all their lives on wait lists for needed services, we cannot afford to offer public assistance to anyone who is not a United States citizen. And certainly not to anyone who entered the country illegally.
Maine’s most vulnerable citizens have been shoved to the back of the bus by liberal politicians. It’s long past time to put Maine people — our veterans, our elderly and disabled, and our school children — first.
Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) is serving his third term in the Maine House of Representatives. He is co-founder and president of the New England Opportunity Project (www.newenglandopportunityproject.org), a conservative nonprofit committed to encouraging grassroots activism in the fight to advance free-market principles. He may be reached at [email protected]