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Business and Economy

Maine Businesses, Educational Institutions Show Support For Federal Immigration Reform

Elise Amendola
Associated Press file
In this June 13, 2019 photo, a migrant woman reads a Bible as she rests inside the Portland Exposition Building in Portland, Maine.

Maine businesses and educational institutions are getting behind the latest attempt to reform federal immigration law.

The Maine Compact on Immigration has been signed by 70 groups, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the University of New England and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science. At a virtual press conference, Bigelow President Dr. Deborah Bronk said Maine science institutions need the input of people from far away.

“They see the world differently than we do. That difference is power. So, if you want to solve a problem, you need to bring as many different minds together to tackle it. And this is diversity, not as a moral issue, but as a critically important strategic issue,” she said.

Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors said, for Maine, luring immigrants will be an economic necessity.

“If we kept all of our working-age youth from leaving our state, we would fall way short of our aging population that would be retiring,” he said.

Connors said even bringing back Mainers who’ve moved out of state wouldn’t be enough to meet the needed labor demand.

“I know, being an immigrant, what we’re bringing here,” said Adele Ngoy, a fashion designer who moved to Maine 20 years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We come with everything we had back home, and bring here to support, and to be part of the community. This is our new home. This is our new country. And we love it, and we support, and we give the best of ourselves.”

In the short term, the Maine compact wants to see the federal government issue more temporary work visas so Maine businesses can get the employees, especially on a seasonal basis, that they need. But the coalition is also calling for additional paths to citizenship, something the Biden administration is proposing in its immigration reform legislation.