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Maine DHHS: No More General Assistance for Illegal Immigrants
06/11/2014   Reported By: Ed Morin

The state Department of Health and Human Services says it's moving forward with efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the state's General Assistance Program, and has informed cities and towns that, beginning immediately, the state will no longer be reimbursing them for illegal immigrants as part of municipal general assistance programs. Ed Morin reports.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says it's moving forward with efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the state's General Assistance Program, and has informed cities and towns that, beginning immediately, the state will no longer be reimbursing them for illegal immigrants as part of municipal general assistance programs.

DHHS officials say this will align Maine with federal laws that allow states to provide such benefits only if they create a specific statute, something DHHS says Maine has not done.

Sam Adolphson, COO of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, says municipalities could still offer assistance to this population if they want. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan says that is something the City of Portland is not in a position to do.

"If this is implemented immediately we will literally have hundreds of people that will be homeless in the city of Portland," Brennan says, "And I don't, at this point, know what the impact would be across the state."

Brennan said he had not heard about the change until late this afternoon. Zachery Heiden, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, says it will be very difficult and expensive for Maine cities and towns to determine a person's immigration status.

"People have a variety of different statuses - they could be here as refugees or as asylum seekers, they could be here on green cards, and going through all that is very complicated," Heiden says. "It requires a great deal of training and it's quite time consuming."

The move comes after a ruling last month by the Maine Attorney General's office that an earlier effort by the LePage adminstration to halt state General Assistance reimbursement for any non-citizen was unconstitutional, represented an unfunded mandate and exceeded statutory authority. And Attorney General Janet Mills says this narrower effort may also be an unfunded mandate.

Mills says the remedy for the administration is to go through the legislative process.

The DHHS's Adolphson say the move will save the state roughly $1 million a year and involve about 1,000 illegal immigrants, figures Mills disputes.



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