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June 9, 2023

Collins: Asylum seekers would find work in northern Maine

Susan Collins and Angus King Medill DC/U.S. Naval War College/Flickr U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, are supporting a bill that would help asylum-seekers attain employment sooner.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, says she wants to see more asylum seekers head to northern parts of Maine, where, unlike the rest of the state, the population has dropped.

She also says one way to help alleviate an ongoing critical workforce shortage is by allowing migrants to gain employment sooner. Under federal law, asylum-seekers need to wait about five months after finishing their applications for asylum before they can work.

Collins is backing a bill that would reduce that time to one month; the director of Homeland Security promised he'd work with her on that bill.

In an effort to allow asylum seekers to find employment more quickly and become self-sufficient, Collins and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Arizona, introduced the "Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023."  Their legislation would shorten the waiting period before asylum-seekers are allowed to receive work authorizations.  The bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

“Over the span of the last two years, a historic number of asylum-seekers have arrived in Portland and other communities after crossing our southern border. These asylum-seekers could give a much-needed boost to Maine businesses that are facing labor shortages, but the lengthy work authorization process prevents them from getting jobs,” said Collins. “Our commonsense legislation would lessen the burden on the budgets of communities hosting asylum-seekers, while allowing these individuals and their families to support themselves as they want to do, bringing needed skills to the cities and towns in which they settle.”

"These migrants want to work,” Collins said. “They want to be independent and support their families, and employers are desperate for more employees in most of the state."

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