Poliquin joins new push for firm policy on child immigrants by year’s end

Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District joined 34 Republican lawmakers Tuesday in a call for changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals system.

It allows people who enter the U.S. as minors an extended period free from deportation and a work permit while they are here. Republicans’ efforts to overhaul the immigration system stalled, particularly around this issue, which was cast by opponents as cruel and unfair.

The representatives are calling for swift action. In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the representatives called for “a balanced approach that does not harm valuable sectors of our economy nor the lives of these hard-working young people.” Contrary to some of the rough political rhetoric that has targeted immigrants in the past year under President Donald Trump, the letter references studies that show allowing permanent residency status for people subject to the DACA program, who are called Dreamers, “would add hundreds of billions to our country’s gross domestic product.”

Poliquin and the others are still calling for broader immigration reform but want that put on the back burner — and they want it done through congressional action. Poliquin has long opposed former President Barack Obama’s creation of DACA in 2012, arguing that Obama’s executive action was illegal and is now threatening to cause legal action from several states. In September, Trump issued an executive order rescinding Obama’s, but it doesn’t take effect until March. The letter makes no mention of Trump’s own attempts to enact immigration policy changes in other areas by executive order, including the creation of of heightened vetting measures and travel bans on people from certain countries. Those measures have been challenged in several lawsuits.

There are options on the table. There are at least four proposals in the House and Senate to protect Dreamers from deportation after March 2018, but none has gained significant traction. In September, Democrats said they reached a tentative agreement with Trump on a path to citizenship for young immigrants who came here illegally through no fault of their own, but progress is stalled. Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District was a co-sponsor of that legislation, known as the DREAM Act of 2017. Key among Pingree’s reasons for support was that it separated the young immigrants issue from Trump’s attempts to tie funding to it for construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

“I am pleased to see President Trump appears to be backing away from this ridiculous request,” said Pingree at the time.

Maine’s U.S. senators are also calling for action. Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has said she believes Congress can and should act quickly to reinstate protections for young immigrants. In September, she told a business group that Dreamers should have a path to citizenship “as long as they have been good citizens of this country.” According to the Portland Press Herald, however, Collins said she opposes proposals that would permit Dreamers to stay in the U.S. after being convicted of three misdemeanors. Independent Sen. Angus King is also a proponent of a long-term legislative solution.

The issue is under debate here in Maine as well. The “FWD.us” Maine Coalition and the Maine Chamber of Commerce have scheduled a news conference at 11 a.m. today in Bangor to urge quick passage of a new DACA bill. The coalition estimates that of the more than 700,000 Dreamers in the U.S., approximately 100 are from Maine. In addition to the chamber, officials from the Eastern Maine Labor Council, the Maine Business Immigration Coalition, the Maine Multicultural Center and religious leaders will attend the event at Bangor Public Library.

Trump and McConnell may be making promises to Collins they can’t keep

Collins has a deal in hand to pass two health care bills alongside a tax reform bill, but the House speaker is reportedly not in on it. One of the conditions of Collins’ Saturday vote for the Senate’s tax plan was a promise from Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to pass two bills that could help offset the tax bill’s repeal of the mandate to buy health insurance. But The Hill reported yesterday that Ryan is telling people on Capitol Hill that it’s not a deal that he backs. Collins told reporters yesterday that she would need “absolute assurance” that they would pass before voting for a final tax package. Spokespeople for Collins and Ryan didn’t respond to Tuesday requests for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of the Daily Brief said a legislative task force on Maine’s opioid crisis was scheduled to deliver recommendations today. Today was its original deadline, but it got an extension and will present them on Dec. 12. 

Reading list

  • The Trump administration looks like it will leave Maine’s new national monument alone. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday that he will recommend no major changes for Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument following months of speculation that Trump would attempt to reverse Obama’s creation of it in 2016 or allow commercial logging on the property. Katahdin Woods and Waters was one of 27 monuments created since 1996 that Trump ordered reviewed in April.
  • Officials in Oxford County have asked Gov. Paul LePage to remove their sheriff. Sheriff Wayne Gallant has admitted to sending an explicit photo of himself while in uniform to a female employee of another law enforcement organization and has been the focus of an investigation about whether he sexually harassed his own employees. On Tuesday, Oxford County commissioners voted unanimously to ask the governor to remove Gallant from office and appoint a replacement. LePage would have to hold a hearing before removing the sheriff, something that we think no Maine governor has done since 1926.
  • White students in Maine are the least likely in the nation to see kids of another race in school. That’s little surprise in the nation’s whitest state, but Maine schools are more homogenous than neighboring and similarly white New Hampshire and Vermont, according to an Associated Press analysis. In Maine, 82 percent of students attended schools that were 90 percent white in the 2013-2014 school year. In Vermont, it was 78 percent and New Hampshire was at 68 percent.
  • Maine energy regulators delayed changes to the state’s solar power credit system that are the subject of a court challenge. The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted to delay until April 30 changes that would weaken credits for solar energy delivered to the grid over time, according to Maine Public. Environmentalists and small solar installers assailed that policy when the commission approved it in January and it’s now the subject of a court challenge from advocates and large energy users. Aside from the court challenge, there will likely be a legislative effort to kill the new policy in 2018.

Bugs probably aren’t in your Christmas tree. They were in my nightmare

Our news partner, WGME, had this helpful item yesterday assuring Mainers that it’s unlikely that insects are burrowed in our Christmas trees after a 2012 report from Science Daily. I hadn’t read this before I went to bed last night, but my mind was on bugs anyway.

I woke up (to write the Daily Brief) this morning after having a dream about giant spiders in my apartment. There was a family of them. I smashed them. They needed to be vacuumed up, but I didn’t sleep through the clean-up phase. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.