When the prospect of advancing immigration legislation fell apart in February in Washington, D.C., and with it any chance to overhaul the asylum process, my heart sank.

I visit Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland often to play soccer when I visit family. I was raised in the D.C. area, but I consider Maine my second home, where my father’s family has lived and worked for generations. During my last visit, I met Edson (name changed to preserve anonymity), a 22-year-old who had been living with his family in the Portland Expo Center. Despite the language barrier, we discussed topics from soccer’s G.O.A.T to the hardships he had faced since arriving from Angola. Edson conveyed with emotion his biggest struggle: he could not work.

It’s a challenge many others share, which is why Rep. Chellie Pingree’s legislation to allow asylum seekers a pathway to work is so important: allowing asylum seekers to be self-sufficient and have a positive impact on their new communities, reducing the need for the state and counties to provide housing, food and other basic needs.

With bipartisanship in mind, Sen. Collins also pushed for a speedier process for granting work permits to asylum seekers. But it seems that campaign politics will prevent progress on this issue for now.

Edson and I exchange messages, sharing hope for new opportunities. I urge legislators to advocate for policies similar to the one proposed by Rep. Pingree, allowing ambitious individuals such as Edson to contribute to our economy.

Benjamin Files
Bethesda, MD

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