UNE President James Herbert calls for inclusion of immigration reform in Budget Reconciliation Package at virtual press conference

University of New England President James D. Herbert, Ph.D.
UNE President James D. Herbert, Ph.D.

University of New England President James D. Herbert, Ph.D., joined fellow University and business leaders at a virtual press conference on Monday, Aug. 30, in which he called on Congress to ensure immigration reforms are included within the upcoming budget reconciliation package.

Such reforms would create pathways to citizenship for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status — so-called “Dreamers” — farmworkers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and essential workers.

Herbert was joined by James S. Dlugos, Ph.D., president of St. Joseph’s College of Maine; David Barber of Tyson Foods, board member of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), board president of the Maine Business Immigration Coalition (MeBIC), and UNE trustee; Adele Masengo Ngoy, owner/entrepreneur, Adele Masengo Designs and Antoine’s Formal Wear and Tailor Shop; and Beth Stickney, Esq., executive director of MeBIC.

Herbert spoke to the need for immigrants to sustain Maine’s population and economy. Through his work as co-chair of the Workforce Development Subcommittee of Gov. Janet Mills’ Economic Recovery Committee, Herbert said, he learned how badly Maine needs immigrants.

“It's basically a matter of simple arithmetic: if we don't bring in immigrants, our population will decline. The only reason Maine hasn't lost population given current demographic trends is because of immigration,” Herbert remarked. “We not only need immigrants coming in through our existing legal channels, but we need the Dreamers, farm workers, and asylum seekers, and those who are here on temporary protective status in order to continue contributing to our economy.”

There are currently 1,500 immigrant youth in Maine who would become eligible for permanent residency through the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, Stickney said, who could begin building permanent careers in the state with their protections ensured.

Herbert also spoke directly about the health care workforce crisis. As president of UNE, Maine’s largest provider of health care professionals, Herbert said immigrants serve a dual purpose in the health care workforce.

“These dreamers are going to be our future doctors, nurses, dentists, and other medical professionals. It is also important to consider that, in order to really provide the access to health care that Mainers need, we need more health care providers who look like the populations they serve,” he said. “I urge our federal Congressional delegation to strongly consider supporting the reconciliation process and the inclusion of these protections.”

Additionally, Herbert and Dlugos, who is president of the Maine Independent Colleges Association (MICA), released a letter signed by the association to Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, urging them to renew their previous ardent support for DACA permit holders and Dreamers in current congressional discussions on immigration reform.