Washington, D.C. – At the request of officials representing Portland, U.S. Senator Susan Collins sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urging DHS to halt sending asylum seekers from the southern border if they lack a verified destination address. DHS’s practice of facilitating the movement of asylum seekers without confirming that the destination city has resources available to accommodate new arrivals has caused Portland’s social services to reach the breaking point. This has created a crisis for asylum seekers, as well as for unsheltered Mainers. Last week, Senator Collins met with Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross in her Washington, D.C., office to discuss this issue.
“State and local officials have reported to me that many asylum seekers in Portland identified municipal government addresses—including social services offices or emergency shelters—as their ultimate destination when they first arrived at the southern border,” Senator Collins wrote. “Those individuals were allowed entry into the country, and in many cases were provided with transportation to Maine, without any confirmation by DHS as to whether the locations identified can accommodate these individuals.”
“As a result, the City of Portland—a city with a population of fewer than 70,000—is currently sheltering approximately 1,100 people per night and is under constant pressure to expand emergency shelters and other services, with the only alternative being to turn away vulnerable individuals, families, and children. Perhaps most troubling, the surge of asylum seekers in Maine now means that housing facilities are beyond capacity and Mainers in need of shelter have nowhere to go,” Senator Collins continued. “I request that, going forward, DHS verify all destination addresses prior to allowing entry into the country, thereby ensuring that asylum seekers have a safe, reliable destination, and that municipalities are not stretched beyond capacity.”
“Maine communities have done their part to assist asylum seekers in need, but these communities are strained far beyond their capacity,” Senator Collins concluded. “Allowing additional asylum seekers to travel to Maine without confirming that these individuals will have a place to sleep is irresponsible and could lead to a tragedy. I urge you to take immediate action to prevent that from happening.”
Senator Collins also asked Secretary Mayorkas to respond to a series of questions to better understand how DHS facilitates the transportation of asylum seekers.
Last month, Senator Collins introduced the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023, which would shorten the waiting period before asylum seekers are eligible to receive work authorizations.
Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ letter.