President Obama’s measured deferrals of some deportations, which has been labeled a historic power grab, does not go nearly far enough. At least not for Portland.

In Maine’s biggest city the top problem with the federal government’s failure to fix a broken immigration system is the presence of about 1,500 asylum seekers who are not eligible for federal food and housing assistance and also can’t legally work until they have had their status clarified by an immigration court, a process that can take many months.

During that period, they can be eligible for general assistance aid, a state and local program administered by the city, which can pay the rent. But even that is under doubt because the LePage administration has ordered the city to stop providing the aid, a matter which is now the subject of a lawsuit in federal court.

Obama’s deportation deferrals are aimed at illegal or unauthorized immigration. Much of the benefit will go to family members of American citizens who entered the country illegally many years ago, and have been living in a shadow economy.

But that doesn’t describe the asylum-seekers, who are newcomers that have entered the country legally even though their visas may have now expired. They are legally present, even if their status is unresolved.

These are not “illegals” who are hiding out from the law. They are people who left their homes, often at the point of a gun, trying to establish themselves in a new country. They are temporarily caught in a trap where they can’t work and can’t get a day in court.

We regularly hear that Maine is a poor state and cannot afford to help everyone. Since we don’t have enough for the people who were born here, the argument goes, we shouldn’t help those who come from away.

Putting aside the morality of that position, it is also impractical. If you take away general assistance, you don’t make the people disappear.

The city has some practical arguments about why it is not in a position to look beyond financial need and check immigration status before deciding who is eligible for emergency aid. For instance, it would not be constitutional to check only some people’s immigration status and not others, but some of the neediest people, even native born, don’t always have access to their papers.

What’s more, the kind of people who are brave and strong enough to try to make a new start in a foreign country are exactly the kind of people who we want in our community. Study after study confirms that most of what we hear about immigration is wrong. Immigrants are less likely than native born Americans to use social services; they are less likely to end up in prison and mental institutions; they are more likely to start businesses and register more patents.

Unfortunately, Obama’s ruling doesn’t do much to help asylum seekers, Portland or Maine. That’s why our Congressional delegation should continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform that addresses all the people who want to make a life in the United States.