Scontras v. Strimling

Immigration is quickly becoming/has already become the issue of the 2008 elections -- and there's no exception in Maine.

On Wednesday, Republican congressional candidate Dean Scontras sent a letter to his fellow candidates, asking them to join him in calling for Governor Baldacci to rescind the April 2004 executive order that bars state employees from inquiring about people's immigration status.

Here's an excerpt:

"As I travel the campaign trail, illegal immigration is the issue at the forefront of most voters' minds. Mainers feel that the federal government has let them down on this issue by failing to secure our borders and pass comprehensive immigration reform during the last legislative session.

Even more discouraging is the fact that Governor Baldacci is exacerbating the problem by creating a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, allowing them to access social services at the expense of Maine's taxpayers.

As candidates for Maine's 1st Congressional District seat, we have an obligation to Maine's citizens to provide leadership on this critical issue. This is an issue that cuts across party lines and allows for consensus-based solutions.

I am asking you to join my call to Governor Baldacci to rescind his Executive Order. I think we can agree that Maine's status as a sanctuary state is a threat to our national security and an additional undue burden on Maine's taxpayers."

Today, Democratic candidate Ethan Strimling struck back, with a letter sent via local PR guy Dennis Bailey. It's not yet posted on Strimling's campaign website, so we'll publish it in its entirety here, with a noteable excerpt in bold.

Dear Dean Scontras,

We are a nation of immigrants. Your ancestors, like mine, were immigrants.
I am proud to live in a nation that still shines as a beacon of hope and
opportunity for millions of people worldwide. People are literally dying
to come here, and our powerful tradition of immigration is not something
to scorn or fear, but to honor and celebrate.

The Republican Party’s frenzy over immigration seeks to divide our nation,
not bring it together. Instead of engaging in demagoguery for short-term
political gain, you should look at the facts:

* According to the latest census, illegal immigrants make up less than
0.002% of Maine’s population. Most of them work hard, are law abiding,
raise families and pay taxes.

* The Legislature’s Task Force on Homeland Security, of which I was the
co-chair, held over a dozen hearings across the state over the last two
years. Not once did any official or individual come before us to complain
that federal or state immigration laws pose a threat to our security.

* Maine’s economy is highly reliant on migrant and immigrant labor –
Canadian woods workers, Hispanic blueberry rakers, Asian workers at fish
processing plants, etc.

* Many seasonal businesses complain that the federal quota for immigrant
and migrant workers (H1-B visas) needs to increase because they can’t find
enough workers to fill available jobs.

That said, there is much we can do to reform our current immigration laws
and protect our borders. We can crack down on employers who knowingly hire
and exploit undocumented immigrants. We can establish a more reasonable
path toward legal citizenship for the many illegal immigrants who are here
so they learn English, stop living in fear of being deported and get on
the path to becoming US citizens.

But all of these reforms must be aimed at inclusion, rather than
exclusion. They must be aimed at giving people an opportunity to share in
the American Dream. They must be aimed at tearing down walls and barriers
to citizenship, while keeping our nation secure from real threats. They
must reinforce our tradition of hard work and sacrifice as the way to
secure a better future for our family and ourselves.

So here’s my call for leadership: take a more responsible and rational
position on immigration than the one being dictated by your Washington, DC
consultants. Fire your pollster. Stop watching Fox News and Bill O’Reilly
and instead follow what a member of your own party, Abraham Lincoln,
called “the better angels of our nature.” Work toward bringing our nation
and our state together, in all its diversity, instead of driving us apart.
And if your real aim is to decrease Maine’s reliance on immigrant and
migrant workers, here’s something else you can do: support my bill to
increase Maine’s minimum wage, which will give Maine’s working poor a
better shot at earning a livable wage.

If you reject the knee-jerk, divisive politics that are dragging this
nation and your party down, believe me, your supporters will follow.
Because they, like all of us, want to live in a state of hope, not fear.


Ethan Strimling

PS: If you’d like to meet some immigrants who are working hard to support
their families, come on over any time to Portland West.

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