Maine Senate votes to spend millions on welfare for able-bodied non-citizens

Mayhew Statement on GA for Non-Citizens

AUGUSTA – The Maine Senate late Thursday voted to provide welfare benefits to nonqualified aliens—individuals ineligible under federal law to receive federal, state, or local welfare benefits. For the purposes of the federal Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), asylum seekers do not have a legal status in the United States.

"I was appalled to find out this morning that the Maine Senate voted to give at least $6 million worth of welfare benefits to non-citizens just days after they voted to leave hundreds of severely disabled Mainers on waitlists for Medicaid services," said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. "Mainers have spoken loud and clear that they believe public benefits should go to Maine citizens in need, not to non-qualified aliens, but a majority in the senate has decided to listen to welfare industry lobbyists instead of Maine citizens."

The City of Portland alone has been spending at least $3.1 million of state tax dollars per year on General Assistance welfare benefits for nonqualified aliens; mainly asylum seekers. More than half of all asylum applications are denied. Furthermore, asylum applications are increasingly being made on a "defensive" basis, meaning they are only submitted after deportation hearings have been initiated.

In 2014, 68 percent, more than two-thirds, of all asylum seekers filed their applications as illegal immigrants—individuals mainly with expired visas—up from 39 percent in 2010. Welfare industry lobbyists argue that since they applied for asylum as a defense to deportation, they are legally present when in fact they are illegally present in the country and their deportation process has simply been put on hold.

"Just the other day, I had to deny the request of a family to obtain home care services for their adult child with serious intellectual and developmental disabilities simply because the money isn’t there," added Mayhew. "To see the state senate shortchange people like this and just days later, vote to give millions in welfare to non-citizens, is truly heartbreaking and shows a shocking lack of compassion."

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