Westbrook on Saturday joined other Maine cities in declaring that it would continue to provide public assistance to undocumented immigrants despite Gov. Paul LePage’s threat to cut off all state funding for General Assistance to cities and towns that do so.

At an event in Portland, Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said their cities would ignore LePage’s latest move to pressure cities and towns to stop providing welfare benefits to newly arrived asylum seekers and other undocumented immigrants.

“I have no intention of enforcing this mandate. It is simply wrong,” said Hilton.

They made their remarks at a gathering of about 50 immigrant families and their supporters Saturday morning at Deering Oaks.

Brennan also read a letter from South Portland Mayor Jerry Jalbert, who wrote that his city would also continue to provide assistance to people who need it.

On Monday, the Republican governor told municipal officials statewide that they must certify with the Department of Health and Human Services that they are in compliance with a 1996 federal law that prohibits states from offering General Assistance to undocumented immigrants unless the states pass laws specifically allowing it. The LePage administration says Maine has no such law.

Portland, Bangor and South Portland had previously said they planned to continue providing public benefits to undocumented citizens despite the DHHS requirement.

Maine now reimburses cities and towns for 50 percent to 90 percent of their General Assistance expenditures for housing, food and medical treatment for residents who need it. Portland received $7.4 million last year from the state to help support 4,300 residents. About 600 of those are estimated to be undocumented immigrants, many of whom are seeking asylum in the U.S. from their war-torn home countries.

The Maine Municipal Association has advised municipalities to ignore LePage’s order. Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, has questioned the constitutionality of earlier attempts by LePage to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving General Assistance from the state. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has pledged to fight the administration’s latest directive.

“Despite the governor’s best efforts, he is not going to win on this issue,” Brennan said at Saturday’s gathering.

The gathering included remarks by several immigrants who said the public assistance they received helped them get established in Maine.

Suavis Furaha, an asylum seeker and mother of four from the African nation Burundi, said the public assistance she has received as a resident of Westbrook allowed her and her family to leave the Portland emergency shelter they first lived in when they arrived in Maine in September.

“I am thankful to be safe and building a new life,” said Furaha.

Like many newly arrived asylum seekers, Furaha is not allowed to work until she receives a permit, which takes many months. She said while she is on the waiting list to file for a permit, she is volunteering at Learning Works in Portland and helping to open a new cooperative to provide services to newly arrived African immigrants.

Mikara Meng, a Cambodian refugee, said Maine welcomed her with open arms when she arrived in 2001. Now she owns her own store, Mitheap Market, on Washington Avenue in Portland.

“My customers are new Mainers like I was once. Let us come together in caring,” Meng said.

The Rev. Ellen Schoepf of St. Ansgar Lutheran Church in Portland and a representative of the Maine Council of Churches, called LePage’s stance on public assistance for immigrants “morally indefensible.”

She said 100 years ago three out of four Maine residents were immigrants or first generation Americans.

“Most of us were once strangers and we were welcomed,” she said.