Today, during at a roundtable discussion with business leaders and immigrant workers, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree highlighted the key role New Mainers play in moving the state’s economy forward—the same types of immigrants who could be targeted in President Trump’s soon-to-be reissued executive order regarding refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.
“President Trump’s orders are unconstitutional and un-American. But here in Maine, they’re also bad for business. As he continues to spread lies about the people his orders have targeted, I thought it was important to highlight the positive economic impact refugees, asylees, and other immigrants are having in Maine,” said Pingree. “For one, they’re helping address a crisis for the state’s workforce. New Mainers have been a blessing to Maine businesses that have had trouble filling empty positions because of our aging and shrinking workforce. Restricting a source of hard-working, skilled employees threatens the future of our state’s economy, which is something all Mainers depend on.”
After touring American Roots—a Portland clothing manufacturer that employs several New Mainers—Pingree held a roundtable with business and community leaders. The discussion focused on the state’s workforce needs, the challenges and opportunities of employing New Mainers, immigrant-owned businesses, and available community resources.
"Two and a half years ago, American Roots was an idea. It was an idea to make a clothing product that was made with 100% American made material and hand crafted by local Mainers who would be paid a living wage and have the opportunity to live the American Dream. We needed a workforce to make this happen and began our search for people who wanted to work,” said American Roots co-owner Whitney Reynolds. “When we launched the Old Port Wool and Textile training program, it just so happened that women from Iraq, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were the first ones who walked through our door. A year and a half into business, American Roots is working for many reasons and the biggest is because New Mainers from all over the world had the courage, will, and determination to walk through our doors and join our team."
“In May 2016, the unemployment rate was estimated at 3.5 percent for Maine and only 2.8 percent for Portland, Maine's largest city,” said Carla Dickstein, CEI’s Senior Vice President of Research and Policy Development. “Every month we hear from more and more key industries that are desperate for workers – hospitality, health care and long term care facilities construction, textiles, farming and food processing, manufacturing. With English language and job skills training, and community support, New Americans can help meet growing gaps in our labor force and also fill these important roles that are key to Maine’s economic future.”
Roundtable participants included:
· Annam Jabar, Union Chair at American Roots
· New Mainer employers MaineHealth and the Press Hotel
· Mariama Jallow of Mariama's Beauty Supply, an immigrant-owned business
· Organizations that offer community resources, including CEI, Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston/Auburn, Portland Adult Education, and Catholic Charities Maine.
As the world faces the largest refugee crisis in recent history, Congresswoman Pingree has been a vocal opponent of the executive order President Trump issued on January 27. The order reduces U.S. refugee admissions for FY 2017 from 110 thousand to 50 thousand, halts the intake of refugees from all countries for 120 days, and bars admission of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations for 90 days and for Syrian citizens indefinitely. As parts of the order have been halted in court, President Trump is expected to issue an altered one as soon as this week.
While Trump takes steps to restrict immigration, refugees, asylees, and immigrants have brought important economic benefits to Maine. In recent years, Maine’s population has shown little to no growth and the average age continues to rise, creating gaps in the state’s workforce that have dragged down its economy. Countering those trends are New Mainers who have started businesses and filled positions across the state.
By the numbers
- In 2010-2015, Maine’s population growth lagged far behind the rest of the nation—increasing by a total of just .1 percent, or 967 people. But in 2014-2015, the population actually fell by 928 residents. (http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/maines-population-trickles-higher-reaching-nearly-1-33-million/)
- Recent MaineBiz survey found that three-quarters of Maine businesses have trouble finding suitable applicants for open positions (http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/our-view-maine-workforce-shortages-require-complete-focus/)
- More than 65% of immigrants who arrived in Maine between 2010-2013 had some college-level training; median age was 27. Source: CEI
- In 2014, immigrants earned $1.3B, paid $116.2M in state and local taxes, and $245.5M went to federal tax http://www.renewoureconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/nae-me-report.pdf