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York County Jail hires Sanford's 'new arrivals'

One year ago this month, over a hundred asylum seekers unexpectedly arrived in the City of Sanford seeking welfare and free housing, forcing the City to spend over $300,000 more than its general assistance allocation for the year.

[RELATED: “We’ve been overrun”: Sanford City Officials Express Frustration Over Migrant Crisis at Emergency Meeting…]

Migrants were transported from the Portland Exposition Building to Sanford in private cars, Ubers, and some vehicles purporting to be from DoorDash drivers after being given false information that Sanford would provide them with better housing and social services than Portland.

The asylum seekers, most of whom did not speak English, were left without food, water or shelter in front of the town hall and the post office.

“We are at capacity. We are overloaded. We are at a capacity that our staff cannot keep up with,” Sanford City Manager Steve Buck told the Maine Wire last May. “We are overloaded.”

Buck recently told Maine Public that before the pandemic, the city allocated about $150,000 annually to the city's social welfare program, General Assistance, and this year it is earmarking $1.3 million as more migrants continue to come to the city.

[RELATED: Sanford’s Migrant Disaster, Explained…]

Now these “newcomers,” mostly from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are beginning to find employment — including at the York County Jail in Alfred — according to a report by Sanford Springvale News.

The article, published in March, tells the stories of several migrants who arrived in Sanford and are now trying to find work.

Under federal law, asylum-seeking migrants are prohibited from obtaining a work permit for a period of six months after submitting their application.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) of Maine, a far-left Democrat, has introduced the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, which would shorten the waiting period to just 30 days.

Abel Nimi, who worked as an engineer in Angola, told the news agency he is in the final stages of his employment as a $22-an-hour correctional officer at the York County Jail in Alfred.

“I'm very excited and very proud,” Nimi told Sanford Springvale News. “When I compare myself to many other (immigrants), many of them are unemployed for four, five or six years.”

“I'm glad to be doing something different. In our lives, we have to learn to explore other career options and paths,” he said. “We'll be dealing with people. I like that. In my life, I've learned that when you help others, you help yourself.”

Nimi said the prison allows him to work flexible hours while he volunteers as an English teacher at a local church.

The prison's director of recruitment and training, Lt. Mike Perry, told the outlet that the goal is to “hire new Americans” to reduce chronic staff shortages.

“There are a large number of them. We have developed a process for recruitment,” Perry said, adding that the biggest obstacle to hiring more asylum seekers is their English language skills.

“Knowledge of English is essential, because the job consists 100 percent of communication with each other and with [inmates]”, Perry said.

The cover photo of the article features two other migrants who were recently hired as correctional officers at the York County Jail.

[RELATED: Asylum Seekers Staying in Sanford Inn Will Soon Have to Find Another Place To Stay…]

Rachel Phipps, deputy director of economic opportunity for the York County Community Action Corporation, said the number of migrants from Angola and Congo in Sanford has risen to 240 since last spring.

Another employee of the nonprofit said that by March, 10 of the asylum seekers had found jobs.

York County Community Action provides a bus service to help migrants get to their jobs.

Sofia Ngudimbuta, a recent employee at Walmart in Sanford and originally from Angola, told Sanford Springvale News that she relies on the nonprofit's buses to get to and from work.

Anna Harden

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