Maine Town Is Riven by Housing Dispute

Abby Goodnough, New York Times, November 15, 2009

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This [Milbridge] is the intended spot for a small apartment complex for farmworkers, a few hundred of whom are Hispanics living year-round in this remote corner of Down East Maine. They harvest blueberries, process seafood and assemble holiday wreaths, and most live in trailers near the fields and factories where they work.

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Now the group, Mano en Mano–Spanish for Hand in Hand–has filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and the equal protection clause of the Constitution. And Milbridge, which once won acclaim for its efforts to welcome and integrate immigrants, is smarting from accusations of racism.

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According to the lawsuit and local newspaper accounts, some residents opposed the project on grounds that farmworkers’ children overburdened the schools; others predicted it would be a drug haven. The petition, signed by 48 residents, said jobs should be saved for local lobstermen, whose industry is suffering, and not “given out to minorities that may move into these units.”

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