AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Paul LePage and 16 Republican states backed the federal government on Monday in a lawsuit against California over so-called sanctuary laws that limit cooperation between state officials and federal immigration authorities.
It’s a flashpoint between President Donald Trump’s administration and Democratic states and cities. No Maine communities stop police from working with federal immigration officials.
However, Portland employees can’t ask people about immigration statuses unless it is required by law and LePage has labeled it a sanctuary. Mount Desert, Bar Harbor and Brunswick have passed symbolic resolutions declaring themselves sanctuaries.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department sued California over three laws that made sweeping changes to state law, including barring local police from asking people about their immigration status and keep them from participating in immigration enforcement activities.
On Monday, LePage, a Republican, joined a Texas-led coalition of 16 Republican states and and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to file a legal brief in a California federal court that says the state “cannot … impede the federal government’s enforcement of immigration laws.”
LePage runs the nation’s whitest state, but immigration has been at the forefront of state policy debates at times during his administration. Days before the 2016 election, he declared that Maine would stop participating in the federal government’s Refugee Resettlement Program.
Under Trump’s administration, the U.S. is expected to resettle fewer than half of the 45,000 refugees who are allowed to enter the country this year, according to the Associated Press. Maine has taken in only 21 since Oct. 1, down from 229 during the previous full year.
Last year, the Maine Legislature rejected a bill sponsored by Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, that would have forced cities and towns to cooperate with federal immigration officials. LePage put forward a similar bill this year.
The Maine State Police supported it, saying it “ensures consistency within our state,” but it was voted down last week by a legislative committee and is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-led House of Representatives amid opposition from civil rights and immigrant groups.
Rachel Healy, a a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said in a statement that opponents of last year’s bill turned out “in droves” to fight it and that while legislators “listened,” LePage “did not.”
“Our governor should listen to the people of Maine and stop pushing his anti-immigrant agenda,” she said.
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