The Administration of Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) will implement plans to eliminate state support for illegal aliens who apply for or receive General Assistance benefits. Although the plan is consistent with a federal ban on aid to illegal aliens, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills (D) said the move may be unconstitutional.
Since December, LePage has sought to prohibit state aid from flowing to illegal aliens to bring General Assistance standards in line with qualifications for federal aid such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps. Federal law prohibits a state from providing welfare benefits to illegal aliens unless it has a statute that qualifies people irrespective of immigration status. Maine does not have such a statute.
This week Maine Department of Health and Human Service Commissioner Mary Mayhew said, “We are moving forward and will continue our efforts to align programs with federal rules to ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are used appropriately for those in need and protected for those who are legal residents of Maine and this country.” Mayhew said the new rules will affect about 1,000 illegal aliens and save the state more than $1 million a year.
The Maine General Assistance program is run by cities and towns, with funding from the state. The state reimburses most municipalities up to 50 percent of General Assistance costs, although it covers up to 90 percent of the costs for Portland, Lewiston and Bangor. Under the new rules municipalities can choose to offer assistance to illegal aliens, but they would have to do so without state funding support.
Attorney General Mills declared unconstitutional an earlier effort by the LePage Adminstration that would have halted state General Assistance reimbursement for all non-citizens, including refugees and asylees. Her findings said the initial proposal violated the equal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions, levied an unfunded mandate on local governments and exceeded statutory authority. The new rules only affect illegal aliens but Mills said they may still be unconstitutional and an unfunded state mandate.
Mills also said she isn’t sure how a city or town clerk will be able to determine whether someone is an illegal alien. “You can’t make every town in Maine a mini immigration office,” Mills said. However states and municipalities that hand out federal assistance are required to use the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system to check the eligibility of all non-citizens. Maine was violating federal law by not using SAVE.
Read more in the Portland Press-Herald.