York County Jail is hiring ‘newcomers’ from Sanford

A year ago this month, more than a hundred asylum-seeking migrants unexpectedly arrived in the city of Sanford seeking social services and free housing, forcing the city to spend more than $300,000 more than its allocated general assistance budget for the year.

(RELATED: “We are swamped”: Sanford officials express frustration over migrant crisis during emergency meeting…)

Migrants were transported from the Portland Exposition Building to Sanford in private cars, Ubers and some vehicles posing as DoorDash drivers, after being fed misinformation that Sanford would offer them better housing and benefits than Portland.

The asylum seekers, most of whom did not speak English, were left outside the city hall and post office without food, water or housing.

“We are tapped. We are gone. We have reached capabilities that our workforce can no longer keep up with,” Sanford City Manager Steve Buck told the Maine Wire last May. “We are swamped.”

Buck recently told Maine Public that prior to the pandemic, the city was distributing about $150,000 annually for general assistance, the municipality’s welfare program. This year, the city is budgeting $1.3 million as more and more migrants arrive in the city.

(RELATED: The Sanford Migrant Disaster Explained…)

Now these “newcomers,” mostly from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are starting to get jobs — including at the York County Jail in Alfred — according to a report from Sanford Springvale News.

The article, published in March, covers the stories of several migrants who arrived in Sanford and are now trying to find work.

Under federal law, asylum-seeking migrants are not allowed to obtain a work permit for a period of six months after their asylum application.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), a far-left Democrat from Maine, has introduced the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, which would reduce the waiting period to just 30 days.

Abel Nimi, an engineer in Angola, told the newspaper he is in the final stages of his appointment as a $22-an-hour corrections officer at the York County Jail in Alfred.

“I feel very excited and very proud,” Nimi told Sanford Springvale News. “When I compare myself to many other (immigrants), many spend four, five or six years without finding a job.”

“I’m happy that I can do something different. In our lives, we have to learn how to face other career options and paths,” he said. “We will be dealing with people. I like that. In my life I have learned that when you help others, you also help yourself.”

Nimi said prison gives him the opportunity to work a flexible schedule while volunteering as an English-language instructor at a local church.

The prison’s director of recruitment and training, Lt. Mike Perry, told the newspaper that “hiring new Americans” is a goal to help alleviate chronic understaffing.

“There’s a big pool of them. We have created a recruitment process,” Perry said, adding that the biggest obstacle to hiring more asylum-seeking migrants is English language skills.

“English language skills are essential because 100 percent of the job is communicating with each other and with (inmates),” Perry said.

The image in the article shows two more immigrants who were recently hired as corrections officers at the York County Jail.

(RELATED: Asylum seekers staying at Sanford Inn will soon have to find another place to stay…)

Rachel Phipps, deputy director of Economic Opportunity at York County Community Action Corporation, said the number of migrants in Sanford from Angola and Congo has reached 240 since last spring.

Another employee of the nonprofit said that by March, 10 of the asylum seekers had found jobs.

York County Community Action has a bus service that helps migrants commute to work.

Sofia Ngudimbuta, recently hired at Sanford Walmart from Angola, told Sanford Springvale News she relies on the nonprofit’s buses to get to and from work.

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