Armando shared his story as part of MECEP’s State of Working Maine 2023 report. Click here to read the full report.
Armando came to Maine in April as an asylum seeker from Angola. He studied finance, banking, and insurance in Angola and is waiting to be able to apply for a work permit. He currently lives in crowded housing in Portland.
I came to the USA in January and waited in detention for two months before coming to Maine. I have a bachelor’s degree in economics and law. I was working in customer service in Angola because I speak a lot of languages: French, Portuguese, and Lingala.
I have a lot of things to do, but I know that life is step by step. I filed my asylum case. The process to get a work permit is the same for everybody. It takes a long time. One hundred-eighty days is too much for all of us. I have waited sixty days already. Lawmakers should change the number of days we have to wait to apply for a work permit. You could do two months. Sixty days would be okay! If I had my work permit now, I could work and pay my taxes and give my contribution in this country.
I am living in a place with many members of my community. I am still looking for housing. It is very, very difficult. People need privacy in their life. Because your privacy is your education. Your mind must be free. I will be happy and free when I get my place. I’m doing a lot of applications for housing. But they don’t like General Assistance. I’m praying to God to help me find something. I’m ready! If you told me you have a room for me in Biddeford, oh, I can be happy! I want to meet new people. I want to make American friends.
Portland is the key for a lot of us, but Maine has a lot of cities. Maine has Biddeford, Saco, Sanford, Lewiston, Augusta, Presque Isle. People should change their mentality. Everything that’s in Portland should be in Saco, in Biddeford.
Maine is a safe state. We love Maine. We need to give something for this country, for this city, for this state. We speak many languages. I speak French, Portuguese, and today I’m trying to speak English. Maybe tomorrow I’ll learn Mandarin! I could work in a hospital. I’d love to work in a bank. Maine has a lot of immigrants, and I can talk to them. We need more teachers in school who speak our languages. We can help facilitate English comprehension for students who don’t understand it. I’m a benefit for you, Maine.
We need unity in Maine. White people and Black people must be together because the USA is the freedom country. For me, the USA is like a mother. The mother loves all her children, all her kids. I love the USA and I am ready to give something for this country and for this state.