Maine’s immigrant community has formed a political action committee to represent new Mainers and help them engage in the civic process to ensure their voices are heard by decision-makers in their communities and at the State House in Augusta.

“We are trying to have one voice for the whole community, and use the tools that are available to fully participate in the political system,” said Elmuatz Abdelrahim, an officer in the New Mainers Political Action Committee.

Abdelrahim and others will formally announce the PAC at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Lewiston Public Library.

“This will lead us to total integration into the system and to a better understanding of how we can advance our goals and issues, how to petition and how to use our voting power to attract attention to an issue that might affect us,” he said Thursday night.

He called the formation of the New Mainers PAC “a baby step” into the political arena.

Abdelrahim expects immigrant leaders, allies and supporters to attend Friday’s launch. If it is successful, the PAC will help build cohesion among all immigrant communities across Maine and identify political leaders who are willing to work with them to integrate new Mainers “into the social and economic fabric of our state,” he said.

Similar attempts have been tried in the past, but failed because leaders did not speak with a unified voice, he said. Abdelrahim predicted this effort will succeed because the issues affecting immigrant communities are more urgent.

Efforts at the state and local levels to restrict social services for legal immigrants have underscored the need to act now, he said. The LePage administration has pressed for restrictions on state aid to undocumented immigrants, and proposed prohibiting municipalities from using state funds to provide General Assistance to some immigrants. In Lewiston, Mayor Robert Macdonald recently proposed creating an online database of Maine welfare recipients, but will not go forward with his idea because no lawmakers are willing to sponsor the legislation.

Abdelrahim said no single event prompted the formation of the New Mainers PAC, and the PAC hopes to advocate across the political arena. “Whatever the needs of the community will be where we will be,” he said. “If the issues leads us to Augusta, we will go to Augusta.”

State Rep. Michel A. Lajoie, D-Lewiston, welcomes the PAC’s creation and looks forward to establishing dialogue with its leaders. “Having the opportunity to be able to voice your opinion and your goals is something that should be, and I believe is, free in America,” he said. “It might be a good thing, in the sense that many times there are so many different opinions within a community, if you have a coalition of individuals it’s a lot better.”

The PAC has invited community leaders from Lewiston, political candidates and others to attend Friday’s launch.

“We are looking at collaborating with our allies, service providers and all those who are working in the field of helping new Mainers,” he said.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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