Anti-diversity is bad for business

Letters to the Portland Editor, January 28, 2011
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  January 26, 2011

As he has done with environmental leaders, Governor Paul LePage needs a forum to hear from Maine immigrant and civil-rights leaders. This is made all the more urgent when one considers his "kiss my butt" sound-bite refusal to meet with the NAACP because they are a "special interest." These words beg the question of how different the NAACP is from business and environmental organizations. Is not a civil-rights group centered on immigration, public education, human capital, and equal employment important for all of Maine and its future?

The immigrant status of what the governor referred to as his "black son" — a 25-year-old Jamaican family friend — brings home the connection between race, immigration, and civil rights. As Sudanese political refugee, American citizen, and Portland community leader Lado Ladoko recently made clear: "If I were from Mexico, I would be an illegal immigrant. It is all about humanity."

Without input from organizations, like the NAACP, the governor moved on an executive order with inevitable unintended consequences. It creates an Arizona-like obligation for state officials to use "reasonable suspicion" as the basis for questioning the immigrant status of any Maine resident that looks "illegal." As substantive public policy, the governor's order is a symbolic gesture to put "Mainers first" by attacking what he recognizes is a minuscule state problem: undocumented immigration. Is this his way of going after what he perceives are bloated social services? State officials already automatically deny undocumented immigrants such services and Portland's own ordinance supersedes the governor's order for local officials

The governor's order and words are a go-head for anti-immigrant state legislation with the potential for violating the civil rights of all Maine citizens. This is why the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) hopes to meet with the governor. We want him to understand the centrality of immigration as an economic and civil-rights issue. We want to help heal the breach and explain how racial media spins have a metastasizing public anti-diversity effect on Maine's economic engine: Portland.

We also know that business and civic leaders do not see the governor's order and words aimed at immigration and the NAACP as positive signs that "Maine is open for business." They know the fundamental difference between a local chamber of commerce and NAACP is one rooted in immediate business or special benefits and public interests.

Civil- and immigrant-rights public organizations hope the governor opens his door to hear their concerns over how his state leadership profoundly affects the Maine public interest. When organizations like NAACP or LULAC come knocking on the Blaine House door, we hope that the lights are on and the door is open.

Ralph Carmona
Spokesman, League of United Latin American Citizens

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