December 30, 2013

Letter to the editor: Mean-spirited governor hurting most vulnerable

We are writing with anger and dismay after reading that Gov. LaPage is proposing to end state funding of General Assistance for asylum seekers.

This proposed action is the most heartless in a long string of mean spirited steps depriving help for our most needy and vulnerable neighbors. Asylum seekers are here because they are fleeing their native country as a result of persecution, including, in many instances, torture and threats of death to themselves and their families.

We have been helping an extraordinary man from an African country who arrived in Portland two years ago. He was penniless and, although he spoke two languages, he had no English language skills. He had to leave his wife and young children behind in his home country.

He lived in a shelter for six weeks after which, with the help of housing and food vouchers from General Assistance, he shared a room with other asylum seekers and slept on the floor.

With the temporary help from General Assistance when he first arrived, he has become a responsible member of our community. He has both a full-time and a part-time job, pays federal and Maine income taxes and shops in our community. His employers have repeatedly praised his work ethic, sense of responsibility and compassion for his clients.

He is exactly the type of person we should be encouraging to make Portland home. Instead, this governor wants to cut off the temporary lifeline to our country and community that is so helpful to those in need.

Ringing a charity bell for a photo op may be good politics, but this proposed action by the governor is callous, mean-spirited and morally indefensible. It makes us embarrassed to be living in a state with such leadership.

Kenneth Spirer

Joan Leitzer, M.D.


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