Immigrants, including refugees, are good for Maine

In a visit to Maine on Thursday, Donald Trump suggested that the presence of Somali refugees in the state was a security risk and an economic drag. However, the data do not bear this assertion out. No member of Maine’s refugee or Somali communities has been convicted of a terrorist offense.  Furthermore, New America, a non-partisan think tank specializing in international security issues, reports that of 539 extremists charged with terrorism-related offences in the US since 9/11, only 11 have been refugees. In fact, many refugees are victims, not supporters of terrorism who came to the US to escape groups like ISIS and Somalia’s Al-Shabab..

Statistically, Maine’s recent immigrant population[1] is generally better-educated and younger than the state’s general population. These are exactly the kind of people Maine needs to attract and retain if it is to build a robust economy in the face of an aging and shrinking population and workforce.  Immigrants bolster both the quantity and quality of Maine’s labor force – the foundation of any strong economy.

Native-born Americans Foreign-born,
arrived after 2000
Population 1,271,749 16,769
Median Age 42.5 26.5
With Bachelor’s Degree 18% 23%
With Advanced Degree 10% 18%

Source: MECEP analysis of US Census, American Community Survey Public Use Microdata, 5-year estimates, 2010-14

Denigrating Maine’s immigrant population only hurts our well-being, not only by weakening the social fabric of our state but by hurting our economy.  Maine’s economic future depends on attracting a youthful, skilled workforce to the state, and Maine’s immigrants are an important part of that future.  Making false assumptions and stoking prejudice against those immigrants who are already here is the wrong prescription for a growing Maine economy. We should instead nurture the potential of these new Mainers, recognize the necessity of attracting more people, including immigrants, into the state, and welcome the contributions they are making to building a more robust economy benefitting all Mainers.

[1] This analysis examines those who immigrated to the United States after 2000.  Before that date, the majority of immigrants to Maine were from French Canada; their immigration patterns and demographics are markedly different from more recent immigrants.  The total foreign-born population of Maine (including naturalized citizens) is 46,133, of whom 16,769 entered the US before 2000.