SOUTH PORTLAND — The city will donate $40,000 in surplus funds to the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project to assist asylum-seekers.

Portland-based ILAP is the only statewide legal services organization for immigrants.

The City Council unanimously approved the donation, one of five actions to be taken by the city to assist Portland with its response to an influx of immigrants, at its Tuesday meeting. The action was first discussed June 13.

More than 220 asylum-seekers arrived in Portland in the last week after fleeing The Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. As of Sunday night, 212 individuals were staying at the Portland Expo, including 60 families.

According to City Manager Scott Morelli, staff will also form a group to explore spaces to utilize as shelter for potential asylum-seekers and take stock of potential city facilities that could be used as emergency shelters. The group will also prepare details and cost estimates for what it would take to open and operate such a shelter.

“We don’t seem to have any control over the national dialogue or any meaningful influence on immigration reform that might solve some of these problems,” Mayor Claude Morgan said Tuesday. “We received a batch of folks who are tired, hungry and beat up. Policy and a procedure have made pawns of suffering people. I know as a city we can do better.”

The city will work with Portland to ascertain needs, and requests will be brought back to the council as appropriate. The mayor will also encourage other communities to participate in assisting Portland.

A donation page for asylum seekers set up June 14 on the South Portland city website has already received more than $2,000 contributions. Morelli said the council will use discretion on how the funds are utilized, but will most likely be for asylum-seekers needing assistance that isn’t covered under the general assistance program.

Resident Phil Martin on Tuesday spoke in opposition to assisting Portland, saying although he understands the emotional turmoil the asylum-seekers have gone through, assisting Portland would put a strain on local resources.

“Someone’s got to tell them we can’t afford to do this,” he said. “To have people come in and believing we’ll take care of them … we can’t do it. Someone needs to step up. It is an emergency and a disaster for those folks.”

Resident Ghomri Rostampour said she supports assisting Portland because she has lived the experience herself. As a refugee from Iran who came to South Portland 20 years ago, she said she held two jobs and was a full-time student who worked to support her two children.

“The USA is a great country, and I am glad to see refugees are not forced into a camp but being given good shelter and opportunity,” she said. “I was a child when chemical bombs raided my country. I saw so much violence… I am still traumatized. Where is the heart for people who need help?”

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

Ghomri Rostampour on Tuesday told the South Portland City Council she supports assisting asylum-seekers who recently arrived in Portland because she lived the experience herself as a refugee from Iran 20 years ago.

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