Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, discuss the bipartisan immigration deal they reached during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

A group of business and higher education leaders from Maine is asking Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to include immigration reform in the next federal budget package. In a press conference Monday morning, the group called for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers, essential workers and others.

The virtual press conference was organized by the Maine Business Immigration Coalition, and featured remarks from the presidents of University of New England and St. Joseph’s College of Maine as well as several business executives.

UNE President James Herbert noted that Maine’s healthcare sector already relies heavily on immigrant workers. Herbert added that supporting undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children – a group commonly known as Dreamers – is vital to medical industry.

“These Dreamers are going to be our future doctors, nurses, dentists, and other medical professionals,” Herbert said.

Other speakers highlighted the role that undocumented workers play in all aspects of Maine’s economy, from construction and farm work to business entrepreneurship.

Adele Ngoy, a business owner and a former refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that it would have been impossible for her to get where she is today without legal status – and said extending that status to undocumented individuals who’ve been living in US for years would benefit society as a whole.

“I believe strongly that they deserve a path to permanent residence, and that we will all be better off when that happens for them,” Ngoy said.

The press conference was part of a national lobbying campaign organized by the American Business Immigration Coalition as Congress negotiates the contents of the federal budget.

Congressional Democrats are pursuing a legislative strategy called reconciliation that would allow them to pass major pieces of President Biden’s agenda without Republican support.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.