Posted on February 29, 2024

Outrage over Maine Lavishing $34M on ‘Taj Mahal’ Apartments for Asylum Seekers

James Reinl, Daily Mail, February 28, 2024

Residents and GOP politicians are slamming Maine officials for lavishing millions of dollars on ‘Taj Mahal’ homes for asylum seekers while the state’s veterans and US-born homeless are struggling.

Republicans say the Democrat-run state has spent $34 million on shelters, hotels, and ‘luxury apartments’ for migrants, even as Maine Veterans’ Homes and other shelters for ex-servicemen face cash shortfalls.

Much of the anger is directed at the 24 one- and two-bedroom apartments in attractive, three-story clapboard blocks that were recently given rent-free to 60 migrant families on the edge of Brunswick.

One of the new migrant residents called her new home a ‘palace’ compared to the shelters she’d been staying previously.

Maine families have to pay $2,300 per month for comparable two-bedroom homes nearby, which come with marble countertops, oversize refrigerators and cookers.

Some units even have balconies.

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, a Republican, at a recent press conference compared the luxury rent-free homes to the Taj Mahal, an extravagant marble mausoleum in India.

‘It’s really striking to me that folks in rural Maine are being told to do more with less, while Taj Mahals are being built for other folks in more urban places that aren’t even Maine residents or Maine citizens,’ Stewart said.

Maine House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham says the state-run MaineHousing organization has allocated more than $33.2 million in emergency housing assistance to help asylum seekers.

That amounts to nearly two thirds of the state’s total emergency housing fund, which would be better spent on housing for veterans and the homeless in one of America’s coldest states, he added.

Much of the money has been spent on new shelters and hotel rooms, including nearly $14 million to accommodate 80 migrant families in Saco.

Another $4.4 million has been spent on hotel stays in South Portland.

Close to $5.3 million has been allocated to an asylum seeker shelter in Portland, the GOP said.

‘Taxpayers need to know how this money is being spent,’ said Faulkingham.

‘This is unacceptable.’

Faulkingham also accuses Maine’s Democratic Gov Janet Mills of looking to add 75,000 asylum seekers to the state by 2029.

The Mills administration’s says it has a 10-year plan to attract 75,000 new workers to fill empty jobs, but that will mostly involve educating Mainers and attracting newcomers from out-of-state.

Rep Gary Drinkwater described one cash-strapped Mainer who’d been ‘couch-surfing’ for five years, while many veterans struggled to put a roof over their heads.

Executives at Maine Veterans’ Homes this week said they faced a $11.7 million shortfall this year after recording a $17.1 million loss last year, according to Maine Public.

That could threaten the homes for nearly 800 veterans and more than 200 family members at facilities in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough and South Paris.

‘It’s appalling that Mainers are getting pushed to the end of the line, and asylum seekers are at the front,’ said Drinkwater.

Meanwhile, the state has seen a surge in its number of homeless residents since 2021 and currently has more than 4,000 unhoused people, mostly in and around Portland.

A little over 3,000 of them sleep in shelters.

Residents also pay some of the highest taxes in America. Maine has the costliest property levies in the nation, and only residents of New York and Hawaii pay more tax on the dollar overall, according to WalletHub.

Migrants started being housed in the Brunswick apartments last month.

Competition for them was fierce, and the application list was capped at 250.

Esther, an asylum seeker from Nigeria who was awarded a home, said it felt like a ‘palace’ compared to her previous digs.

Photo listings of similar apartments on the same development suggests the interiors are comfortable.

They feature marble countertops, oversize fridges and ovens, and laminate wood flooring. Some even have balconies.

The newcomers are expected to eventually get permission to work and start earning to pay their own way.

America’s southern border has seen ever greater numbers of migrants cross the frontier and ask for asylum since Biden took office in January 2021.

There were more than 10,000 arrests for illegal crossing per day over several days in December alone.

President Biden, a Democrat, and Republican front-runner Trump are set to make dueling trips to the US-Mexico border on Thursday.

Polls show that Biden’s immigration policy will hurt him when Americans vote in November.

Maine GOP leader Faulkingham blamed the president for poor security at the southern border, which is more than 2,200 miles from his state.

‘Maine is not immune to Biden’s border policy,’ he told reporters.