At its core, the decision to withhold benefits from asylum seekers and undocumented people in Maine is a denial of human rights.

This population represents some of the most resilient people in our state who are in the most vulnerable circumstances. Most are struggling to get their basic needs met while experiencing profound human transitions: fleeing war, running from religious persecution and escaping violence to arrive in an unfamiliar place far from home. How does Maine want to be known for treating our neighbors who are most deeply and urgently in need?

All people in Maine deserve to have their basic human rights to food, shelter, and health care met. None of us are somehow more worthy and more valuable than our neighbors. Believing we are distances us from the frightening reality that many of us could easily be in a situation where we need help from others to meet our basic needs.

There is also a widespread belief that there are not enough resources for us all to have what we need. This keeps us divided. It keeps us fighting with each other over a small slice of the pie instead of holding those who own the pie – those in positions of financial and political power – accountable for their decisions.

None of us should be denied our human rights with the flick of a pen or the sending of a memo. We need to create communities that support each other when our human rights are at stake.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is bringing together working-class and poor Mainers to build a multi-issue, multi-racial movement that speaks up for all of us. We refuse to allow more of our friends and neighbors to be hungry, homeless and sick. We have the power to envision and create a different world.

Nicole Manganelli