Northern U.S. city that welcomed asylum seekers overwhelmed by ‘influx’, quickly running out of resources

A U.S. city that threw its doors open wide for migrants seeking asylum is now rethinking the decision.

Unlike the so-called sanctuary cities and states typical in the southern portions of the nation, this current crisis of depleted resources is being faced by a city in the northern city of Portland, Maine, according to The Wall Street Journal.

(Image: screenshot)

The city, with a population of about 67,000 is now “struggling with an influx of asylum seekers,” according to the report which revealed that very generous policies toward asylum seekers have strained the city’s budget and resources.

“We have more cases than we’ve ever had,” Jennifer Bailey, asylum program director at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Maine, said. “The number of people coming is out of sync with resources.”

Most of Portland’s family shelter space has been used to meet the needs of immigrants seeking asylum as they have poured into the city that offers funding to help them transition to their new homes and even provides pro bono legal representation for asylum petitions in court.

“The word is out there that our community is open to that population and has some assistance programs,” David MacLean, from the Portland Social Services Division, told The Wall Street Journal. “Our local resources are not able to keep up.”

According to WSJ:

Asylum seekers, who are primarily from African countries, now make up 90% of the people living in Portland’s city-run family shelter and overflow shelter, where new arrivals sleep on mats. A city fund that assists with necessities is dwindling fast, and pro-bono lawyers are overwhelmed with cases, Mr. MacLean said.

 

Many of the immigrants arriving in Portland have come using State Department guidelines for seeking asylum, unlike those crossing the southern U.S. border illegally. But asylum seekers are not able to get jobs for six months after filing their petitions, and are able to receive federal benefits once they’ve actually been granted asylum.

Now, as nearly 70 percent of those receiving state funding are non-citizens –  many who are asylum seeking non-citizens – debate is unfolding on the wisdom of continuing the welcoming policy. Funds need to be increased, thereby straining state and local coffers, or cutting back on assistance to avoid overpopulation and overwhelming systems for Portland’s residents.

PORTLAND, ME – DECEMBER 5: A family seeking asylum in the United States lie on their mats on the floor of the Salvation Army gymnasium before bed on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. When the Family Shelter reaches capacity families sleep in the gym or the shelter warming center (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

The question about whether taxpayers are willing to foot the bill of generosity and the challenges facing the Maine city were debated on Twitter.

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Frieda Powers

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