- - Friday, June 27, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LEWISTON, MAINE - Like a bottle tossed in a faraway sea, Washington’s recklessness keeps washing up elsewhere, such as the great state of Maine.

The federal government’s refusal to enforce immigration laws has prompted Republican Gov. Paul LePage to take his own steps in this semirural New England state of about 1.3 million people.

Mr. LePage, whose colorful rhetoric often gets him into hot water, decreed that any Maine municipality that gives general-assistance money to illegal aliens will lose money for all general-assistance-aided programs.

With Maine’s economy at least as depressed as that of the rest of the country outside the Washington Beltway, this is no small threat. The media-touted economic “recovery” has yet to visit many towns here that have boarded-up factories and storefronts.

The announcement had immediate impact. Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills, a Democrat, charged that Mr. LePage was ruling by executive fiat and hinted at legal action.

When the White House issues unconstitutional edicts, you don’t hear Democrats fret about separation of powers. They’re too busy kvetching that the Koch brothers are still at large, and urging President Obama, at long last, to turn the Internal Revenue Service loose on his opponents. Wait. That’s already been done. Never mind.

Mr. LePage noted in a letter to municipal officials, “The Maine Legislature has had every opportunity in the past 18 years to pass a law mandating that municipalities provide General Assistance to illegal aliens. They have chosen not to.”

He punctuated it: “I fail to understand how [our] enforcement of an existing federal law somehow reflects a desire to ignore the will of the people.”

This is reminiscent of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s attempt to restore order on her lawless border with Mexico by signing a state-enforced immigration bill in 2010. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. sued, and the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. U.S. (2012) gave a mixed ruling, but did uphold a provision requiring police to arrest and hold criminal suspects they think are in the country illegally.

Mr. LePage’s comments on grants to illegals were strong stuff, but mild for him. The Bangor Daily News has kept a running tally of his outbursts since he attained the governorship four years ago.

When reporters in 2011 asked him to respond to complaints by the NAACP that he had declined to attend their ceremonies honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. LePage responded inelegantly, “Tell them to kiss my butt. If they want to play the race card, come to dinner, and my son will talk to them.” Mr. LePage’s adopted son, Devon Raymond, is black.

NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous erupted: “Gov. LePage’s decision to inflame racial tension on the eve of the King holiday denigrates his office.”

I know how Mr. Jealous feels, since I don’t take disappointment well, either. Whenever someone turns down my dinner invitation, I call a press conference to denounce the ingrate as an “evil-monger”

Mr. Jealous knows something about inflaming racial tensions. He went to Geneva in 2012 to accuse the United States of racism over state-enacted photo-ID laws that help prevent vote fraud. He made his case to the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose members include freedom-loving China, Cuba and Russia. No word on whether Mr. Jealous managed a dig at Mr. LePage while he was at it.

Maine, which has an estimated 1,000 illegals, is not exactly ground zero when it comes to immigration. The state is 96 percent white. But it does have some interesting immigrants. A Muslim subculture of 6,000 resettled refugees from war-torn Somalia is rising in Lewiston, the state’s second-largest city at 36,000.

Some have opened shops and other businesses. Lewiston Mayor Robert E. Macdonald has drawn fire for suggesting that ethnic tensions have been aggravated by the professional racial-grievance industry. He praised the Somalis for their educational achievements and work ethic. But he bluntly urged the Somalis to adopt American cultural values — or go home.

On June 26, the Lewiston Sun Journal front page featured an 18-year-old Somali fashion designer. She and three other models are shown in head-to-toe, veiled outfits. The headline is “Modest and Modern: Teen making mark with Muslim fashions.”

Only their faces and hands show. Perhaps the bright colors qualify as modern. What’s missing is any sense that if Muslims became a majority in America, all girls and women would be forced to dress like this.

As this column was written, news came that Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman condemned by a Sudanese Islamic court to lashings and death by hanging for marrying a Christian man, American citizen Daniel Wani, had been rearrested at the airport after an international protest secured her release. She was later granted refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum amid death threats.

A photo showed her in a veil, appearing gaunt. She had given birth to her daughter in prison while chained to the floor and tending her toddler son.

She looked like she longed to be in a place such as Lewiston, Maine, in a country founded by Christians, where women have the freedom to wear “modest and modern” Muslim fashions — or perhaps something from L.L. Bean.

Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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