At a time when Maine’s median age is the highest in the nation and we don’t have enough young people to fill jobs, the governor’s proposed budget cuts regarding refugees and asylum seekers hurt the very people who could help our economy.

Just as immigrant workers helped the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the last century, immigrants who are moving to Maine today can help fill the labor gap that is hurting our economy.

Government leaders say we need to keep our young people in Maine. What about encouraging immigrants to be part of the workforce of tomorrow?

According to Catholic Charities of Maine, which finds jobs for refugees, employers report that immigrants have skills that make them excellent employees. They are punctual, reliable, stay on task and respond to instruction, among other attributes.

Many are highly educated and were professionals or owned their own business in their home countries. But instead of cultivating immigrant families, these budget cuts will make it hard for them to survive until they get documents so they can work.

Inflammatory comments that they are “illegal” when they are merely undocumented and “disease-carrying” when they are not – combined with these budget cuts – send a clear message to immigrants: “We don’t want you here in Maine.”

Not only does this policy make no sense considering our need to increase the labor pool, but it is also disturbing on a human level. Many of these men, women and children seeking a new life in Maine are refugees of war and victims of atrocities. What has happened to our compassion, to our core values?

I urge the Legislature to retain the funding for temporary assistance. It’s the right thing to do on a practical level and a humanitarian level as well.

Bonny Rodden

board member, Maine Council of Churches, and former Falmouth town councilor