The state of Maine saw more than 400 refugees seeking sanctuary in the state over the course of fiscal year 2023.
State officials expect that number to double in 2024. Maine Gov. Janet Mills is spearheading the creation of an office intended to help these new Mainers not only acclimate to their communities, but to help integrate them into the state’s workforce.
Flanked by business owners, immigrant advocates, municipal leaders and state lawmakers, Gov. Mills recently unveiled a plan to establish the Office of New Americans (ONA) within Maine’s state government.
According to a statement, the office would be tasked with making the Pine Tree State “a home of opportunity for all, by welcoming and supporting immigrants to strengthen Maine’s workforce, enhance the vibrancy of Maine’s communities, and build a strong and inclusive economy.”
Under Gov. Mills’ plan, the office would include four people as well as an advisory council consisting of 19 members whose role will be to advise ONA “on all matters related to the long-term economic and civic integration of immigrants in Maine.”
The plan also offers recommendations for the office’s initial priority policy areas, such as expanding and strengthening English language acquisition opportunities, improving coordination of organizations and entities engaged in supporting immigrants, tracking and engaging in federal immigration policies that would benefit Maine, and building workforce pathways and entrepreneurship supports for immigrants.
With regard to the latter, the plan notes how the ONA can “unlock talents of New Americans” by helping to forge career pathways for immigrants, especially those who arrive in Maine with significant educational and/or professional experience.
With the creation of the ONA, the state can also provide support for immigrants arriving in Maine without work authorization, “by disseminating timely and relevant information on federal immigration policies and available legal supports, with the goal of getting new arrivals on a more efficient pathway to employment eligibility,” the statement read.
“Everywhere you look across Maine, there are help wanted signs. We need workers, and New Americans, who want to support themselves and their families, can be one important part of that solution,” said Gov. Mills, in a statement, adding that her administration will do what it can to ensure that these new Maine residents can contribute to the state’s economy and successfully remain part of its workforce.
“As we strengthen our economy by attracting talented people to work in Maine, may this Office help us fully harness the contributions of New Americans who have chosen to make our state their home.”
Establishing the ONA figures to unlock more economic potential for the state, added State Rep. Deqa Dhalac.
“Organizing these resources in one place will ensure that new immigrants to Maine have the support they need to become engaged and self-sufficient members of our communities, ultimately bolstering economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Rep. Dhalac, in the same statement. “Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Maine that thrives through the contributions of all its residents.”
07 February 2024
HR News Article