Establishing a Municipal Office of New Americans

Municipal Office of New Americans


Portland and Lewiston, as well as several of their surrounding towns, have become centers for increasing diversity through immigration.  This immigration, as acknowledged by institutions as diverse as the AFL CIO and chambers of commerce,[1] has tremendous potential advantages for Maine.  At the same time, to fully take advantage of those opportunities, municipalities with the highest concentration of immigrants must implement policies and programs to meet these unique circumstances.


The premise of creating an Office of New Americans in municipalities is this: New Mainers are here to stay, and—because it is the 21st century—we are only going to get more diverse; we must learn to understand each other.  While the state stands to benefit from creating increasingly integrated centers of diversity across Maine, local communities are best able to create and administer the necessary initiatives. 


A recent report, “Citizenship: A Wise Investment for Cities,” details the many benefits of immigrants becoming deeper members of their communities.  Becoming a citizen, for example, typically brings an 8-11% increase in wages, stimulating job growth in local communities.[2] Integration is the key to navigating increased levels of immigration.  Its time Maine moved to a proactive policy.


The National Partnership for New Americans outlines six key principles for immigrant integration:

  1. Strengthen pathways to naturalization and full civic participation for legal permanent residents.
  2. Create opportunities for immigrants to receive English Literacy, Civic Education, and Continuing Education.
  3. Expand immigrant access to labor markets and economic opportunity through strengthening workforce development, professional integration, and immigrant entrepreneurship.
  4. Ensure that immigrants receive equitable access to services.
  5. Improve access to early education and care that secures a strong future for children in immigrant and mixed-status families.
  6. Support communities in creating a welcoming climate for immigrants and their successful integration.


 The Maine legislature—in a bi-partisan vote— appropriated $75,000 for a “Welcome Center” in Portland.  That funding was subsequently renewed.   Furthermore, we should engage with other cities nationally to learn best practices and draw down resources.  “Cities for Citizenship,” co-chaired by the mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, includes seventeen cities working to promote citizenship, and is sponsored by Citi Community Development, the Partnership for New Americans, and the Center for Popular Democracy. 



[2] Pastor, Manuel and Justin Scoggins. 2012. Citizen Gain: The Economic Benefits of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy. Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.