Brunswick’s new task force on immigration met July 24 to discuss resources needed by recently arrived asylum-seekers. Taylor Abbott / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — A recently established task force on immigration began working July 24 on a centralized resource hub for the town’s newly arrived asylum-seekers.

The group, which also hopes to identify the asylum-seekers’ expectations and resources the community can extend, also suggested hiring a cultural “broker.” In addition, the School Department announced it is offering a summer program to help immigrants assimilate.

The task force includes Councilors Jane Millett, Dan Ankeles and Steve Walker, Town Manager John Eldridge, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Shawn Lambert, and School Board members Teresa Gillis, Sarah Singer and Celina Harrison.

According to the members, resources will depend on what different organizations – which could include The Emergency Action Network, Midcoast New Mainers, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program and Midcoast Regional Development Authority – can offer and how they can coordinate their efforts.

Last month, Maine received more than 300 asylum-seekers from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many families have been staying at the Portland Exposition Building, which is leased to the Maine Red Claws basketball team starting Aug. 15.

At least 18 people moved from Portland to properties on Captain’s Way at Brunswick Landing, according to Singer, and the task force hopes to secure space at the Brunswick Landing Recreation Center for a resource center to help them adjust.

The next immigration task force meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 7, after the Town Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, at City Council Chambers, where task force members are slated to bring the entire council up to date.

Singer encouraged the group to give the immigrant community a seat at the table during task force meetings “in order to have strong guidance” from the community.

“We have had nothing but an outpouring of people that would love to help,” Town Manager John Eldridge said at the meeting. “We have had well over 60 people willing to volunteer, which is great, but we need to know who is running this.”

The task force also suggested hiring a cultural broker, who would mediate for the immigrants as they adopt to their new surroundings. That can be done with the help of Mufalo Chitam, executive director of the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which can recommend someone for the position.

The School Department is organizing a summer program for families, beginning Monday, Aug. 12, at Curtis Memorial Library. The free offering, according to Emily Darby of the School Department, will offer group sessions with the help of Midcoast Literacy for Children, including a session for elementary-aged students, a session for adolescents and a group for adults. The sessions will be open to anyone who needs help learning English.

Darby said the program will run until Aug. 22, but has the potential to expand. Most of the asylum-seekers speak French or Portuguese, and it is not yet clear how many individuals will be enrolling at schools in town this fall.

Additionally, Darby said, Bowdoin College has also reached out to offer support through its language programs.

Singer said while many of their immediate needs, such as housing, transportation and food, are being met, the newcomers would like to have more independence instead of having to rely on the community. She also said Portland Family Promise held the first of several training sessions in town July 24 about how to effectively work with asylum-seekers and understand their situation.

“The ball is already rolling,” Millett said at the task force meeting. “And we need to roll with it.”


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