Maine Asylum Seekers Join General Assistance Lawsuit

Jul 17, 2014

Two women from Burundi living in Maine have joined a lawsuit challenging the LePage administration's rule change that would deny General Assistance to asylum seekers and other undocumented immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and Maine Equal Justice Parters filed the complaint against Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew on behalf of Rehma Rebecca Juma and Suavis Furaha, who, advocates say, came to Maine to escape violence in their native country.

"The LePage administration is barging ahead with a proposal that it has been told in no uncertain terms is unconstitutional," says ACLU of Maine Legal Director Zachary Heiden, in a statement. "We have a rulemaking process in place for a reason - to protect the people of Maine from unlawful policies like this one."

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has threatened to cut state General Assistance funding to any municipality that continues providing it to undocumented immigrants. The Maine Municipal Association has filed suit over the directive.

ACLU of Maine officials say Juma and Furaha have both applied for asylum status, a process that can take months or even years to complete.  Meanwhile, they are unable to earn a living because they haven't yet been granted work permits, the two groups say.

Read the complaint.