I came to this country nearly 50 years ago. Even coming from England and in the easiest circumstances financially – having married a U.S. citizen – it was not easy to adjust.

This country was more open to immigrants then. I experienced the culture here as one that remembered its immigrant history.

Coming from England, I was fascinated that everyone’s name gave a clue of a person’s heritage. The Statue of Liberty had welcomed persons from far and wide. I believed that “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … ” was something that this country stood for.

I experienced that same wonderment at the vision of this country when I became a naturalized citizen. I remember sitting in a very hot Faneuil Hall in Boston in the summer of 1980, waiting for a judge to swear us all in.

It was the “all” of us that was so beautiful: It was like something at the United Nations, with people from all over the world. This is what the U.S. is about, more than any other country.

I also remember the judge’s short speech to us. He said that yes, there is a Constitution, but that America doesn’t always live up to it. We had joined this nation because we believed in the vision, and we were to keep the country true to its values and ideals.

So let’s stand firm on our values of compassion, giving people a chance and honoring hard work by reaching out to asylum seekers desperate to start a new life in Maine.

Allowing them to receive General Assistance for a short period is also in our self-interest, since they will contribute so much more to the Maine economy than we have spent to give them a start.

Suzanne Rudalevige

Cape Elizabeth