In what is seen as a symbolic vote, commissioners in Hancock County voted unanimously this week to support the idea of refugees moving to Hancock County.
The 3-0 vote on Tuesday was in response to a September 2019 executive order from President Donald Trump changing the country’s refugee resettlement policy to not settle refugees in any place where a state or local government hasn’t given its consent. Trump’s direction has yet to go into effect, pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the order filed in federal court in Maryland.
But it’s unlikely that any foreign refugees might actually move in the foreseeable future to the Unorganized Territory of Hancock County.
Scott Adkins, the county administrator, said Friday that he is unaware of any efforts to have refugees move to Hancock County, and that he does not see it happening anytime soon.
Catholic Charities of Maine is the only entity in Maine affiliated with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the charity tries to keep relocated refugees close to their service offices in Portland and Lewiston, he said.
Adkins added that, unlike county governments in other states, the authority of counties in Maine is fairly limited. Hancock County commissioners made it clear when they voted that their support was limited to the county’s Unorganized Territory. The county’s authority, he said, does not supersede the ability of area municipalities to make their own decisions about Trump’s executive order.
“Even in the [Unorganized Territory], it’s a limited authority,” Adkins said.
In a letter sent last week to Hancock County commissioners, Beth Stickney of Maine Business Immigration Coalition said that Trump’s order is legally questionable and would not benefit Maine. She urged the commissioners to vote in favor of receiving refugees in Hancock County.
The state’s population is quickly aging, she said, and it needs an influx of younger people to grow the economy. Also, studies show that over a period of several years, refugees contribute more to the economy in taxes than they receive in benefits, she added.
“Any message to the contrary only serves to divide, and could discourage not only refugees, but also temporary seasonal or professional-level foreign workers, international students, other immigrants, and even second generation children of immigrants from seeing themselves as part of the ‘us’ that can help Hancock county and its communities thrive,” she wrote in the letter.
Officials in a few other counties in Maine also have taken positions on Trump’s order, even though its legality is under review.
In January, commissioners in Penobscot County voted unanimously to support refugee resettlement in their jurisdiction, while their counterparts in Piscataquis County took a position that they did not have the resources to support any refugees who might relocate to their area. Last month, commissioners in Franklin County said they were not in favor of refugees moving to their county.