I applaud the Portland Press Herald for offering a clear explanation of the legal status of asylum-seekers in the June 3 article about Lauren LePage’s robocalls (“Political group’s calls try to pressure Republicans who support budget deal”).

The article reports that Lauren LePage repeatedly uses the phrase “illegal alien” to describe asylum-seekers, linking it six times to welfare during the course of a 90-second phone call. She even uses the absurd phrase “illegal alien welfare.”

By correctly explaining that asylum-seekers hold a legally legitimate status that is protected by U.S. law, the article makes clear that Lauren LePage is promoting misinformation and lies about the status of people who come to the U.S. to escape persecution and to start a new life.

Her robocalls demonstrate something far more pernicious than simple ignorance. By insisting that asylum-seekers are illegal aliens who are not entitled to assistance, she is perpetrating hate and a malevolent divisiveness about how to understand community.

When a community begins to define entire categories of people as unworthy of care, as outside the fold or as subject to punishment and exclusion, that is a community in danger of losing its humanity and its strength.

Readers, do not be persuaded by hate speech. Asylum law exists for a reason. We should all be very proud to live in a world where people fleeing persecution are protected and cared for while they seek to rebuild their lives.

Catherine Besteman