In the African community in Portland, asylum seekers don’t understand why their MaineCare card no longer covers a visit to the doctor. It did up until last October (if they met all of the other MaineCare eligibility rules). Only now, it doesn’t cover asylum seekers or people who have been here less than five years.

People have run into many problems since this law changed. A woman from Rwanda was denied MaineCare even though she should qualify temporarily while she is pregnant under the new law.

Fortunately, our organization was able to help her get the care she needed and straighten out the Department of Health and Human Services’ mistake. She will now get help during the pregnancy, but after that she is on her own to pay for health care she cannot afford.

This was a better outcome than it would have been, but not everyone asks for help when they run into problems. They are afraid and don’t want to jeopardize the safety they have found here in the United States. This makes them very vulnerable.

And now, under this new law, there are many who just can’t get help even if they are brave enough to ask for it.

We have come because we want to live where it is safe, where we can become citizens, our children can graduate from college and we can earn a living to support our families. We need a little help, for a little while. We especially need health care while we are getting our feet on the ground in a new country.

On behalf of African refugees and immigrants, those who proudly now have citizenship and those who await to receive that distinction, I thank Rep. Linda Sanborn for speaking on our behalf (Maine Voices, “Maine-Care cuts will end up costing state far more down the road,” May 4).

Mohamud Barre

executive director

Somali Culture and Development Association


Rep. Linda Sanborn stands tall for social justice and sound government in her opinion piece educating “us” on the true cost of MaineCare cuts.

I thank her for pointing out the financial reality that MaineCare cuts hurt us all. These are cuts that bleed, targeting immigrants who have been here less than five years.

The changes in MaineCare mean that immigrants, who already face complicated, difficult-to-understand conditions, now must go without health care coverage regardless of their health status and age.

These are cuts that punish, intimidate and discriminate against one particular group of people.

I urge our state legislators to stand tall and united with Sanborn against this effort to make life more difficult than it already is for the newest Mainers among us.

Dd Swan


State’s stance on Dechaine raises possibility of coverup

Recent exonerations in Virginia and Colorado of men wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1990s bring to mind Maine’s Dennis Dechaine, who has been imprisoned for nearly 24 years following a murder conviction that has “wrongful” written all over it.

The Virginia verdict against Michael Wayne Hash was overturned after a judge found prosecutorial misconduct and apologized to Hash for “an extreme malfunction of the state criminal justice system.”

In Colorado, Robert Dewey was freed after advanced DNA testing exonerated him. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, realizing it had the wrong man, actually cooperated in Dewey’s exoneration.

By contrast, the Maine Attorney General’s Office continues to fight vigorously against reopening the Dechaine case and holding a retrial. This, despite DNA evidence in Dechaine’s favor and expert opinions by world-renowned forensic experts that time-of-death evidence also clears Dechaine.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office has said that when a hearing is held May 23 to determine if there will be a retrial, it will again attempt to block the way. It’s time to ask why. Is there something to cover up related to Maine’s own “extreme malfunction” other than simple human error? Is there something even worse?

Bob MacLaughlin


Art show’s opening offers vision of Biddeford’s future

The opening of the University of New England’s student art show April 27 gave me a glimpse of what Biddeford could look like in the very near future. Throngs of students came downtown for an event, to support their classmates at an art show!

Engine was very pleased to host Art Department Chair Stephen Burt’s six students, who put a ton of work into curating and hanging their own show. I’d like to thank the students and faculty and administration at UNE for attending the event and supporting these young people.

I saw a ton of smiles on the faces of some wonderfully mature 20-somethings, and heard lots of positive comments about downtown Biddeford. I met parents and grandparents; some of them, I am sure, had dinner out in downtown Biddeford. Engine is simply building on the wonderful work that Mark Nahorney and the fine folks at the City Theater have been doing to attract students downtown.

Plenty of visual arts plus performing arts plus cultural heritage events make for a vibrant and healthy community. As we develop downtown and the mills, let’s keep the university — and our youth in general — in mind and look for opportunities to engage them in this renaissance.

Signed, Excited in Biddeford.

Tammy Ackerman

executive director, Engine, and coordinator, Biddeford ArtWalk


Heath distracts from stories of fight for gay civil rights

So — Michael Heath has once again thrown himself into the anti-gay fray!

Welcome, I say, because we need something to smile at while the people of Maine once more consider whether lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks share the right to marry the one they love. (It appears that this time, the majority of voters will get it right.)

I guess Mike needs a bit more attention and I hope it makes him feel like a grown-up while he jumps around trying to make his version of unChristianity show up in print again.

Still, it’s sort of a shame to waste ink on him and other gay-haters when there are real stories to be told about long-deferred human rights that real people really want and deeply anticipate!

Elliot Burton