As an immigrant from Burundi and an asylum seeker, I can say that now is the time to enact common-sense immigration reform. We need a system that creates a fair roadmap to citizenship for 11 million immigrants who are eager to contribute to their new community.

Many members of the immigrant communities have lived in America for more than 10 years. As immigrants, we are part of Maine communities and families.

We all pledge allegiance to the American flag, go to the same churches and share the same basic human values. We are hard workers and risk takers who came here fleeing persecution and we are here to build a better life for our families.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sen. Susan Collins, who heard our calls and voted for the immigration reform bill that keeps families together. I thank her for her leadership on this and for standing with all the mothers and their children.

Mia Ntahobari

Gorham

Millions of immigrants in our country want citizenship. But under our broken immigration laws, they have no way to earn it.

As a mother, an immigrant who fled hardship and persecution, I can tell that it is not fair to keep families living in the shadows with the fear of having their families torn apart and workers being exploited. That’s what motivated me to get engaged and advocate for immigration reform.

My first action was a visit to Sen. Susan Collins’ office on Mother’s Day, with other immigrant moms and children, to urge her to vote for the immigration bill introduced in the Senate.

Since then, she has voted in favor of this historic opportunity to fix our broken immigration system.

As a woman and as a mother, I would like to express my gratitude to Sen. Collins for her vote. She did the right thing for all of us in Maine, and we are proud to have her representing us in the U.S. Senate.

Claire Uwamahoro

Portland

Sight of panhandlers shows we could all face hard times

Much has been written in your publication and others about Portland’s latest anti-panhandling ordinance.

There are many who say it was a safety issue. Yet in the reports provided by the police, they said they had many complaints, but I didn’t see one mention of an actual accident involving a pedestrian median panhandler and a moving vehicle. If this is the case, the statistics don’t support the public safety argument.

For the most part, I think we are uncomfortable with seeing them out there because it forces us to look within. Many will be harshly judgmental and say they are the dregs of society and deserve what they get. I choose another way to see it, by thinking “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Many things in life we can control, many we cannot. I’d like to think that most of these people are victims of the latter. A little kindness and compassion go a long way, rather than all the noise about “unsightliness.”

It’s been pointed out many times that there’s a world of difference between a guy innocuously holding a sign and the relatively few who choose to be more aggressive and create the need to address the issue, like so many other things in life.

I believe the former is a protected free-speech right. Such ordinances have been challenged in many major cities and defeated in court, so a precedent has been set. I’m confident the same will happen in Portland.

In the meantime, remember: “There, but for the grace …”

Bill Thomas

Sanford

Nemitz puts patient’s fight for coverage in perspective

I wanted to take a moment to write and say that I am grateful for Bill Nemitz and his uncanny ability to get to the heart of the matter. His July 21 column (“Patient’s live-or-die decision is still her own“) is only one of many that I have found to be thought-provoking.

I would like to thank Bill for reminding me that life is not black and white. It is so easy to judge others and find them wanting.

Gail Kennett has a terrible disease; her family is struggling with her, and yet she continues to savor time with her husband and family. The Kennett family is dealing with an extremely difficult situation.

Insurance companies deal with black and white, and the complexities of life don’t necessarily fit neatly into their system.

My initial reaction is: Why can’t the insurance company work with the Kennett family and try to develop a reasonable option such as hospice or home health care or additional assistance in a long-term residential facility?

Mrs. Kennett has the desire to live, and she is finding value in her relationships with her family. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the position of rationing that out. Life is so very complicated. My heart goes out to the family.

My hope for everyone is that when we encounter difficult situations, we can all take a deep breath and remember that until we have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, any opinions we have are purely academic. Bill, thanks for reminding me. Keep up the great work!

Lisa Nash

Falmouth

Rules make Portland pool pleasant site for swimmers

Jolene McGowan’s point in her July 27 column about the importance of swimming lessons for children is well-made (“Port City Post: Don’t let the rules of the pool keep kids from building swimming prowess“).

But I have to disagree with her derisive assessment of the Kiwanis Pool as “the rule-pool.” It is precisely because there are rules for its use, and because those rules are consistently enforced, that the Kiwanis Pool is an enjoyable recreational outlet for Portlanders.

The rules exist for the safety of pool users and for the maintenance of the pool and building. Unfortunately, rules are not popular in this age of entitlement.

I salute the Portland Aquatics staff for running very nice pools, which we are all lucky to have and enjoy, and for enforcing the rules, which make the pools a pleasant place for all. They also offer swimming lessons in a more appropriate format than a crowded open swim.

Diane Whitmore

Portland