Texas’ Greg Abbott wasn’t the only Republican to blatantly lie about anti-immigrant stances during recent debates. During a debate in Maine this past week, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills correctly noted that notorious xenophobe and Republican nominee Paul LePage had supported the insurrectionist president’s Muslim ban, a statement of fact that caused LePage to have an outburst.
“Janet Mills, you’re a liar,” LePage claimed. “I have not joined and prevented Muslims from going to work, ever. I did not join the Trump administration in any immigration.” But that’s a lie: The Press Herald dug up receipts in the form of a Feb. 2017 tweet from LePage that said he opposed then-state Attorney General Mills’ legal action against the insurrectionist administration’s ban. LePage was governor at the time.
“I fully support @realDonaldTrump exec action to protect all Americans,” the tweet read. LePage’s outburst this week was made all the more inexplicable by the fact that he once proclaimed himself "Donald Trump before Donald Trump.”
“LePage spent eight years leading an ardently conservative administration in this Democratic-leaning state, but he was best known for his many racist and misogynistic pronouncements,” Daily Kos Elections wrote in 2020 after LePage said he intended to challenge Mills. Maine Public Radio reported in 2019 that among LePage’s many offensive claims was a lie “that immigrants increased the risk of disease, including the ‘ziki fly,’ an apparent reference to Zika virus.” The “immigrants bring disease” lie is a very old lie.
Of course, that was before Republicans became pandemic champions. Not champions in terms of fighting the pandemic, but champions in championing the pandemic, from using right-wing courts to strike down mask mandates, to blocking urgent pandemic funding.
LePage, in fact, “staked out a hard line on immigration even before winning election as governor,” Press Herald reported, as a mayor opposing pro-immigrant policy by another former Democratic governor. Then as governor, LePage sought to block refugees from being resettled in the state, claiming to the Obama administration that he had vetting concerns.
This was xenophobic nonsense, because refugees go through a vigorous, oftentimes multi-year vetting process—certainly more vetting than the insurrectionist president’s judges. LePage, as governor, also supported an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, arguably one of the most popular and successful immigration policies of recent years. When Mills, as state attorney general, joined a lawsuit challenging the insurrectionist administration’s rescission of the policy in 2017, LePage sued her.
Press Herald said that LePage has “softened his rhetoric on the subject,” apparently even showing up to a GOP immigrant welcoming center on Munjoy Hill in Portland. Republicans have been opening these centers around the country to pretend they’re not xenophobic. Many asylum-seekers and migrants have actually been key to solving labor shortages in the state. Yet even as LePage shows up to community centers to aid his political prospects, he’s still trashing the very migrants welcomed there, saying “he does not believe asylum seekers are here legally, even though they are allowed to remain in the country while pursuing their application for permanent status,” Press Herald said.
“We are all immigrants in this country,” LePage claimed in June, the report said. “As long as we come here legally and do it right, we are one big happy family.” But that’s exactly what they’ve been doing, sir. You’re the one who’s spent years saying he doesn’t want them at the big happy family table.
Press Herald said that during an interview with the outlet, “Mills discussed the important role immigrants can and should play in the state’s economy, saying businesses are looking for ways to better integrate new Mainers in the workforce.” She has also pushed for long-overdue action at the federal level. “Many of them come here with not only availability, but skill,” she said in the report. “Some have advanced degrees. Some have experience in the trades. Many of them have skills we need in our workforce today and that’s what businesses are telling me and asking for.”