Throughout summer, the governors of Texas and Arizona have bused hundreds of migrants to Washington, D.C., as a political statement against the Biden administration. Recently, in a move that made national news, the Texas governor also started sending busloads of migrants to New York City. As existential threats like war and climate change force people to leave their homes, the number of displaced people seeking asylum in the U.S. continues to grow.
Here in Maine, we have been responding to migrant arrivals for years. We may not get the same level of attention as places like New York or Washington, but strains on the existing systems Maine has in place have created a crisis situation unlike anything we have ever seen. Most people who pay attention to Maine news know by now that over a thousand people are temporarily sheltered in Portland-area motels. If past trends continue, many of those bused from the southern U.S. border to New York or Washington will continue on to Maine. At least 26 single adults, and an additional 18 people in five family groups, arrived in Portland seeking asylum during the first week of August.
With recent major changes to federal policy – such as a new rule allowing asylum claims to be heard by asylum officers rather than by judges, and the recent announcement that the “Remain in Mexico” program will end – how these numbers will impact Maine remains to be seen. We expect new arrivals to continue, though we cannot know particulars, as we rarely know ahead of time of arriving migrants.
MIRC will continue to advocate for systemic changes that will lead to better, more humane responses. We welcome everyone to join our call for more affordable housing, improved resettlement coordination, healthcare access, English language courses, public transportation, and other services that would increase Maine’s ability to be a more welcoming place.