August 2, 2013

Letters to the editor: Collins' immigration vote helps families

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.

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