Why Maine embraces immigration

An excellent choice for 4th-of-July podcast listening would be Maine, Africa on Radio Open Source. The intro:

We went to Portland, Maine, this week to meet newcomers from Central Africa, Angolans and Congolese asking for U.S. asylum. Fox News hit the panic button two weeks ago: their line was that Maine is being overrun, inundated by African migrants. On a long day in Portland, however, we found nobody sounding scared.

I’ve noticed the strong African influence in Portland when visiting, and wondered: “Why is that?” The answer is that Maine’s population is stable but aging. Immigrants are needed, and the state welcomes them.

A couple of moments in this podcast stopped me in my tracks.

With mayor Ethan Strimling:

“You know what, we don’t consider you somebody else’s problem, we consider you our opportunity.”

And with a woman interviewed on the street:

Chris Lydon: “How did Portland get to be so welcoming?”

Interviewee: “We’re Americans.”

Not everyone’s on board. There’s an anti-immigrant minority, but it is a minority. Most of the people in Portland, it seems, look backward to their own immigrant roots and forward to a future that embraces an influx of world cultures.

On this Independence Day I choose to believe that a national majority feels the same way, and will prevail.

3 thoughts on “Why Maine embraces immigration”

  1. I love portland and have vacationed there every year. I especially like Peaks Island right off the coast. However, illegal immigration of the type that affects other parts of the country is not an issue for Maine which is borne out by the fact that the hispanic and african population is the lowest of all 50 states. Portland makes itself out to be a sanctuary city but the fact is that it is so far away from the border that very few illegal migrants make it that far. The population of Maine is still over 90% white (and much higher during vacation time as white canadians come down to visit). So it’s easy for Portland to tout how open it is when it really is not affected by the same tensions the rest of the country faces. If the population was far closer to the national averages then I am pretty sure the fight would be far uglier. The welfare system in Maine already suffers under the weight of poverty and drug addiction that afflicts many areas outside of the Portland limits. I wonder how it would do if the hispanic and african population was 10% (still no where near US averages) and not 1-2%.

    For as long as I remember, Portland has gone out of its way to welcome african migrants that come to the country legally and it’s done a great job of integrating the newcomers into all aspects of city life. And the newcomers have welcomed the opportunity to become Americans. Again it’s easy because the city of Portand and the state overall do not have to suffer through the strains illegal immigration is causing in other parts of the US.

    A large national majority is very welcoming of legal migration. Illegal immigration not so much. I note that you don’t seem to make that distinction but its an extremely important one when trying to start a discussion about the topic. Being a 1st generation latino, I am pretty sure that some of the stoutest voices against an illegal immigration surge in Maine would be the african migrants who have arrived legally and who spent years of their lives becoming Americans the way the law dictates.

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