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Illegal immigration bill causes clash at State House

Raising voices and signs, standing strong against LD-366, one group hopes lawmakers inside the State House get the message. (WGME)

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- An intense clash over illegal immigrants in Maine dominated Thursday in Augusta.

A lawmaker's bill is facing fierce debate as he wants to punish cities and towns that won't work with the feds on immigration enforcement.

Raising voices and signs, standing strong against LD-366, one group hopes lawmakers inside the State House get the message.

High school junior Rebekah Novak was born in Ethiopia and is a U.S. citizen, but she says she's still concerned a bill intended to crack down on an estimated 5,000 illegal immigrants in Maine could hurt her.

“Yes we're going to target illegal immigrants, but it's also people who are perceived as foreign, because of my skin color I am automatically a target for that,” Novak said.

That bill from Republican Representative Larry Lockman requires Maine cities and towns to work with federal agencies on immigration issues and enforcement, and authorizes local law enforcement agencies to, "transport aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States to federal facilities." If they don't, they risk losing state funding.

A passionate public hearing on the proposal brought both sides to the State House. Those against it say it will make immigrants feel less safe regardless of their legal status, and undermine trust with local police.

The committee took no action on the bill Thursday.

Rep. Lockman says it's intended to discourage so called sanctuary cities, which refuse to help federal immigration officers.

There are no sanctuary cities in Maine, but Portland, South Portland, and Hallowell are considering that designation.

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