Councilors Call for “Plan” for Future Asylum Seekers in Portland


City Manager Jon Jennings Appeared Annoyed at the Instruction of the Council to Develop a “Plan” for Future Waves of Asylum Seekers.

Mayor Kate Snyder Facilitated the Workshop .

Mufalo Chitman, Executive Director, of Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition. Her Non-Profit Has Helped With Transportation and Storage of Luggage.

Newly elected Councilor Tae Y. Chong, of District 3, called for the city to be better prepared in the future for arrivals of those coming up from the Texas border seeking asylum here in the US. He was the lead speaker in a call that the rest of the council fell in line with.  (Councilor Chong replaces Councilor Batson who did not run for re-election in November).

Following his lead, Councilors Jill Duson and Belinda Ray called on city manager Jon Jennings to create a plan for the future – in order to be better prepared should there be another wave of asylum seekers arriving in Portland from the southern border.  This instruction came yesterday afternoon at a workshop at city hall intended to update the council and the public on the latest wave of 188 individuals (52 families) to arrive in Portland since November 11th.

Trying to pass the buck, Jennings said he’s had conversations with Governor Janet Mills and he would prefer that she take the “leadership” on this issue since its a regional issue. Jennings’push back on the plan idea included an accusation that the Council was trying to place blame on the city for the lack of preparedness in the most recent influx from the Texas border.  “We need others to assist us.  We can’t do it alone.  We’ve tried our best…” his voice trailing off.  The plan would include a segment on what we learned from our experience this summer as well specific roles of all parties involved.

Councilor Nick Mavadones said that “fire departments often have memos of understanding between them to cooperate in a time of emergency.”  This approach is applicable in this situation as well.

USM has offered housing on a shot-term basis – from December 23rd until January 19, 2020 with the possibility of some student volunteers. During this timeframe, the gym would be available.  Councilor Pious Ali recommended that this offer be explored further.

The above discussion followed a presentation by Kristen Dow, director of the city’s Department of Health & Human Services in which she outlined the current situation.  Since November 11 and up until December 15, 188 individuals have arrived from the Texas border. The funding is not an issue currently, but it is more a matter of staff.  More have had to be called in even including maintenance people.  At this time, the biggest challenge for the city involves finding day space for about 54 asylum seekers.  “I have not moved into emergency mode yet,”  Dow told the city council yesterday afternoon.

Please see post dated December 13, 2019 for more background on the subject.