Portland, Maine, Struggles with Ongoing Migrant Crisis

Two children sit on one of the cots set up for asylum seekers in the emergency shelter at the Portland Expo on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Portland, Maine, is facing an ongoing migrant crisis that threatens to overflow the city’s housing capacity and drain its funds. 

Portland, which has a population of less than 70,000, is currently experiencing a migrant crisis despite being located in one of America’s northernmost states. 

An article from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) explains that a budget request for fiscal year 2023 shows the extent of the migrant crisis.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), requested an additional $24 million for its Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). 

“The EFSP provides critical resources to communities providing humanitarian relief to thousands of families and individuals encountered by DHS at our nation’s southern border,” the request read. 

It went on to highlight which specific regions were in need of additional support, saying that “Communities in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and as far reaching as Portland, Maine, are providing food, shelter, transportation, COVID-19 testing, and care associated with recommended quarantining and isolation of this population.”

An article from the Christian Science Monitor helps explain why there’s an influx of migrants to Portland, Maine. Three years ago, 450 African migrants arrived in the city. The article explains that “in the cellphone age, immigrants and refugees plumb the internet and contact earlier migrants through WhatsApp.”

“If they make it across the U.S. border, many ask to go to Portland because they’ve heard other Africans are there,” it added.

But in early May, the city of Portland ran out of room for migrants. An email from Kristen Dow, the city’s Health and Human Services director, which was addressed to Customs and Border Patrol, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and FEMA, read, “There is no further shelter OR hotel capacity in Portland, Maine.”

It went on to note, “We have been over capacity in our shelter for quite some time and have now reached the point where the hotels we have been utilizing are also full.”

Portland interim city manager Danielle West said the city was housing 1,771 people, including more than 1,200 asylum seekers.

The Center for Immigration Studies details how funds were appropriated from various sources in a desperate attempt to provide housing for incoming migrants. In June, the city council announced it would raise $1.5 million for housing. The plan was partially dependent on “grants and financing from real estate developers.”

Amid the uncertainty, Reza Jalali, the executive director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center asserted that, rather than a burden, the migrants could benefit the local economy.

​​“We are suffering from not having enough people to work. You have hundreds of able-bodied, motivated young people who are literally dying to work,” Jalali stated

But the Christian Science Monitor reported that most of the migrants “speak no English; they have no money, no relatives or friends to house them; and they are not allowed to work for a living as their appeals for asylum slowly crawl through the system.”

Importing immigrant labor is not the only way to fill employment gaps. 

Rather than taking advantage of immigrant labor, Josh Miranda, the owner of an Italian restaurant called Via Vecchia in Portland, Maine, improved working conditions to attract and retain employees. He also decided to improve starting wages from $20 an hour to $22 an hour. He also did away with 70-hour workweeks.

Miranda discussed his mentality, saying, “It was a much-needed change. I think during this whole shake-up a lot of people left the industry, but this is one of the things that bring people back.” 

He added, “If I have to spend 40 hours a week with people, I want them to be happy. I want them to be valued and appreciated.”

Spencer Lindquist is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerLndqst and reach out at slindquist@breitbart.com.


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