Released March 3rd, 2015
The Committees on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and Health and Human Services will hear testimony this week on Governor Paul LePage’s biennial budget, with Tuesday centering on proposed cuts to public programs, including: General Assistance (GA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Supplement (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These cuts target immigrant members of Maine communities, and if passed, will remove crucial support from children, seniors, parents, and some of the state’s most low-income people.
The Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) believes that the racist and xenophobic rhetoric surrounding so-called welfare reform pits low-income and working white people against the state’s primarily Black and Latino immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking residents, in order to undermine programs that support all low income Mainers. In this race to the bottom, we all lose.
As an organization accountable to a diverse and growing membership of Mainers, we are in solidarity with immigrant members of our statewide community who are testifying before the Committee this Tuesday. The majority of people impacted by the proposals are people residing in Maine legally, especially those seeking asylum from violence in their home countries. However, undocumented peoples’ voices are too often unheard; many of our neighbors live in fear of violence, discrimination, detention, incarceration, and deportation. This community of Mainers is also most likely to struggle in meeting basic needs, such as access to safe shelter, nourishing food, and medicine.
The Southern Maine Workers’ Center believes that all of us share fundamental human rights and that a democratic government is responsible for creating conditions for all people to meet basic needs and lead lives of dignity. One of our guiding principles is universality, which means no person is less deserving of dignity, respect, and safety than any other. Within a human rights framework, a person’s value is not determined by a job, passport, or racial identity.
There is enough for all of us.
We reject the misleading logic that taking away from the most vulnerable makes the rest of us stronger. The Governor’s accusations against poor Mainers – immigrant and nonimmigrant alike – would have us believe the lack is moral, rather than material. We witness people responding to difficult circumstances with collectivity and empathy. The Governor’s state of the state address called for courage and bold action, and yet the only solution proposed to any problem is to make cuts. This lacks creativity and wedges apart groups of Mainers whose well-being is intertwined. We are all deserving and there is another way.
We urge Mainers who share this vision to contact members of the Committee on Appropriations and Finance Affairs and Committee on Health and Human Services, urging them to vote down these budget cuts. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will forward your comments to the committee members. Or mail your comments to: AFA Committee, 5 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
The Southern Maine Workers’ Center takes inspiration from fearless immigrant organizing around the country. You can learn more about this expansive vision of human rights and justice by visiting:
In Solidarity with All People Making Their Homes in Maine,
The Southern Maine Workers’ Center