Senate Appropriations Committee Advances $30 million to Help Cities Like Portland Cope with Asylum Seekers

Funding included in Bipartisan Border Supplemental Funding Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced an emergency supplemental appropriations bill by a vote of 30 – 1.  Senator Collins is a senior member of the Committee.


The legislation provides a total of $4.59 billion to address the border crisis, including $30 million in FEMA funding for communities like Portland, Maine, that are struggling to cope with the expenses associated with a surge in families and children seeking asylum in our country.


            During the full committee business meeting, Senator Collins delivered the following remarks:


“I want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for their hard work and cooperation on this bill, which provides badly-needed funding to help address humanitarian needs arising out of the crisis on the southern border.


“I am especially grateful that the bill provides $30 million in FEMA funding to communities that are struggling to cope with the expenses associated with a surge in families and children seeking asylum in our country.


“One such community is Portland, Maine.  In just the past ten days, a surge of asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola have arrived in Portland after crossing our southern border. At least 223 asylum seekers – including 60 families -- have arrived by bus in the city since June 9th.


“Portland is housing these families primarily in the Expo, a sports venue it has converted into an emergency shelter.  The cost of supporting these families for a year has been estimated to be as high as $1.3 million, which is a significant amount for a city of only 67,000 people.


“While some nearby communities are already pitching-in to help, and more than a thousand volunteers have stepped forward to help out, meeting the humanitarian needs of these asylum seekers should not fall only to the City of Portland or the people of Maine. We are facing a national problem, requiring a national solution.


“It should be noted that these asylum seekers often cannot provide for themselves, because they are not immediately allowed to work. Under U.S. law, asylum seekers must wait 150 days after completing their asylum application before they can file for work authorization. This requirement was adopted by the Clinton Administration in 1994 out of concern that some might apply for asylum primarily as a means of getting a work authorization. The Clinton Administration explained at the time that discouraging such applications would enable it to grant asylum and work authorizations more promptly to those who merit this relief. That has not happened.


“I have noted on many occasions that the situation on the southern border is broken, and the arrival of hundreds of asylum seekers in Portland, Maine -- nearly 2,500 hundred miles from the Rio Grande – underscores this fact. It’s clear that we need comprehensive immigration reform, stronger border security, a better way of handling asylum claims, more immigration judges, a sensible system for guest workers, and a long-term solution for the young people we call the “DREAMERS.”  This bipartisan bill will provide much-needed funding to cover clear humanitarian needs, and I am hopeful it will serve as a first step toward the larger reform that is so badly needed.


“In closing, I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for their work on this bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important legislation.”