A Maine state agency is ordering localities not to use state dollars to provide assistance to undocumented immigrants, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The state department of health and human services, overseen by Gov. Paul LePage (R), is advancing its plan to stop state support even though the state’s Democratic attorney general said last month the move would be unconstitutional, according to the newspaper.
The policy change affects the state’s General Assistance program, which “provides benefits to families with children in some situations when the family is threatened by destitution or homelessness due to an emergency situation,” per Maine HHS.
The agency estimated that 1,000 people would be affected and the state would save $1 million annually, according to the Press Herald. The state will not reimburse any aid given to undocumented residents, though critics say it will be difficult for cities to make a determination about legal status.
HHS said in a release that federal law prohibits the department from providing benefits to undocumented immigrants. The department also noted that localities could choose to offer benefits to that population with local dollars.
The move was criticized by Democratic officials, including the mayor of Portland, whose city is expected to be most affected.
“It’s a stunning development by the department,” Mayor Michael Brennan told the newspaper. “It’s just another way to make an end run around the Legislature and the rules-making process. In Portland, it is going to impact hundreds of people, who will be left homeless and without food.”