Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Happy September.
What we’re talking about
Jake Bleiberg today had the first interview with a refugee of the Syrian civil war to come to Maine. As he reported, 32 people — or six families — have been resettled in the Portland area this year. This comes after Gov. Paul LePage late last year expressed his staunch opposition to accepting Syrian refugees, citing terror fears.
Nadir Alzoubi and his family fled Syria in the winter of 2012, just as his wife, Jamila, was about to give birth to their third child.
They crossed the border into Jordan on Dec. 19, beginning a desperate four-year journey that ended a few weeks ago when the family arrived in Portland. They are among the first 32 refugees of the Syrian civil war to be resettled in Maine, according to Catholic Charities of Maine, the agency that handles their transitions.
The challenges now facing the Alzoubi family are common to all refugees who come to Maine, said Tarlan Ahmadov, director of Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services.
“There is no difference between Syrian, Iraqi, Somali and Russians [refugees],” Ahmadov said. “They are the most vulnerable people. They have fled their home because of terror. And we provide services no matter who they are.”
But those who have fled Syria may face an additional barrier of fear and mistrust from some Americans. In the wake of last year’s attack by Islamic State gunmen in Paris, France, a number of prominent Republican politicians, including Gov. Paul LePage and presidential nominee Donald Trump, called on the government to stop admitting Syrian refugees, insinuating that they might be terrorists.
“To bring Syrian refugees into our country without knowing who they are is to invite an attack on American soil just like the one we saw in Paris last week and in New York City on 9/11,” LePage said last November, though governors have no legal authority to block refugees.
Despite LePage’s hostility, Catholic Charities has helped six Syrian families begin rebuilding their lives in the Portland area since the beginning of this year. They’ve arrived as part of the Obama administration’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees within a year, a goal being reached this week.
— Want to know what it takes for a refugee to actually resettle in Maine? Check out Matt Stone’s explainer from last year.
— Seth Koenig has done a lot of reporting on new Mainers and their impact — and potential impact on the state and region. Start with his piece of #TheEconomyProject from last year, that lays out why Maine needs more immigrants to grow our economy.
— Seth also dug into a recent report that shows Portland actually would have lost population since 2000 if it were not for immigrants.
Lawmakers deadlocked on possible special session for LePage sanctions — As Michael Shepherd reported earlier today, this was kind of expected.
How electricity providers siphoned more than $20M from customers — If you haven’t already read Darren Fishell’s investigation into the real prices of competitive energy companies, I heartily recommend you do so. Here’s why:
Plans with rates shifting every month are not typical, but [FairPoint Energy customer Melissa] Peirce was hardly alone in losing money to middlemen who began selling electricity supply to residential customers in 2012.
A Bangor Daily News investigation found hundreds of thousands of Maine CEP customers would have paid $20 million less if they had stuck with the default price in 2013 and 2014. While losses on variable rate plans such as Peirce’s were steep, the bulk actually came from fixed-rate contracts.
That’s despite a claim by the largest provider, Electricity Maine, that it ” has saved residents millions of dollars.”
A Bangor bank bought a Portland startup — Whit Richardson of Maine Startups Insider reports on the deal between Bangor Savings Bank and Buoy Local, a startup that sells gift cards for local businesses.
The Big Idea
‘Here’s how little Americans really know about immigration’ — WaPo’s Ana Swanson reports: “Americans consistently mention immigration as one of the nation’s most pressing political concerns, and it has become a signature issue in the presidential campaign. On Wednesday, Donald Trump flew to Mexico to meet with the country’s president, and capped off the day by giving a fiery speech in Phoenix on fighting illegal immigration.
“But while many Americans consider immigration one of the biggest issues for the future president, surveys suggest that they also have little understanding of the scale of the problem.”
Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @dsmacleod.
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