Monday, April 10, 2006

Hispanic Immigrants in Maine

The Washington Post had an interesting article the other day about Downeast Maine's interests in the current immigration reform debate.

"All of a sudden you have a new language and a new culture coming in," said Anais Tomezsko, who heads an organization that helps Latino immigrants living near the town of Milbridge, population about 1,300. "That's something that hasn't happened here since basically the English came."

The influence of the new Hispanic residents has been felt especially keenly here in the past few weeks, as Congress has weighed changes in immigration policy. Tomezsko has been trying to organize a group to attend a pro-immigration rally in Portland, Maine, later this month. Local Hispanic residents have been pressing officials for more details about proposals that would ease the path to legal-resident status.

And local employers have watched the same debate with great concern, fearing that the same industries that seemed so foreign to immigrants a few years ago -- from blueberries to sea cucumbers to el brocal -- might collapse without them.

My lovely wife Rowan and I made a trip to Ellsworth and Bangor this weekend, and got to see many Hispanics roaming the aisles of many shops. If these are the folks the far-right-wingers are demonizing daily, I can't imagine why. All I saw were peaceful folks, enjoying life in Maine, buying things they probably couldn't afford to buy in their previous circumstances. If the rest of the country doesn't want them, I say send them to Maine.



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