October 18, 2019
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Portland sees an influx of asylum seekers following change in US border process

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Evening traffic flows down Commercial Street in Portland in this Oct. 23, 2013, file photo.

After a change in policy at the U.S. Border, Portland has received, as of Tuesday morning, a total of 67 asylum seekers in the past two days, with as many as 150 to come in the next few days.

In an email to the City Council, Portland City Manager Jon Jennings said he had received a heads up from San Antonio’s city manager that customs and border protection is now sending asylum seekers to their destination cities before they have begun the asylum process.

“They’re just letting people choose a destination city and once they have that … listed they’re sending people on their way,” Jennings said.

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said the problem with that is, if people have not begun the asylum process, they are not eligible to receive general assistance, which comes from a combination of state and federal funds, and they are more likely to need to take advantage of the city’s community support fund, which only has reserves of $200,000.

Grondin says the city’s Health and Human Services Committee will take up the issue when it meets tonight, and that city staff are looking for guidance on that and on how the city will provide shelter for the incoming families — many of which, Grondin said, have young children.

Grondin says most of the families are from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.



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