Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services will press on with a plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the state’s welfare program after a weeks-long brawl with Maine’s Democratic attorney general.
The effort, led by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, would ban towns from spending state funds on emergency aid for illegal immigrants. Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills has fiercely criticized the plan, which she warned could “make every town in Maine a mini immigration office,” according to a report Thursday by the Portland Press Herald.
Between 50 and 90 percent of local emergency aid budgets come from state grants, which totaled about $13 million last year.
LePage initially sought to exclude both illegal immigrants and asylum seekers from the state’s cash-strapped fund, arguing that it should be preserved for the elderly and disabled. His administration said the latest plan would save $1 million and impact about 1,000 families.
Illegal immigrants are currently ineligible for federal aid programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid.
Mills was reelected to Maine’s top justice post in 2012, marking the first time in a decade that the state’s governor and attorney general represented different parties.
In her latest clash with LePage, Mills accused his administration of sidestepping state lawmakers to carry out the plan.
“The appropriate thing to do would be to respect there are three branches of government, not one. Assuming there’s merit to the idea, put it to the Legislature, put it to public hearing, to debate and discussion with full transparency, ” she told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday. “Instead, they wait until the Legislature’s gone and do something by press release.”
LePage is one of the most vulnerable Republican governors in the country. He won office in 2010 with just 38 percent of the vote, about 10,000 votes ahead of the second-place independent candidate. This year, he faces Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and that same independent, Eliot Cutler; polls show Michaud leading his two rivals.