Some immigration advocates in Portland say that while they support the state’s proposed rule change to expand eligibility for General Assistance, the current wording of the measure could keep some immigrants from receiving help.
Last week, Gov. Janet Mills announced that she was expanding eligibility for the GA program to asylum seekers who take, "reasonable, good faith steps" to apply for immigration relief. But Beth Stickney of the Maine Business Immigration Coalition, says the new rules will require some asylum seekers to provide what’s called an "alien number."
"Many, many people don't have an A-number until they have their application filed,” Stickney says.”
Stickney says others immigrants, including some victims of human trafficking, may not be eligible under the rules as written, either.
“It's clear from her statement that she expected them to be included, but under the rule as written, they would not be included if they were applying affirmatively for a trafficking visa under USCIS,” Stickney says.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services says the "administration welcomes feedback on the rule changes" and says the changes are intended to align with the intent of a 2015 law passed by the legislature clarifying GA rules for asylum seeker.