Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to examine worldwide threats at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Credit: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades / AP

Sen. Susan Collins is asking the Biden Administration to slow the number of asylum seekers arriving in Portland as the city struggles to house new arrivals.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Collins asked the agency to verify that asylum seekers have a quote “safe and reliable destination” before letting them into the country.

Immigrant advocates in Maine quickly pushed back on that idea. Martha Stein, with the Portland-based group Hope Acts, said Congress should instead address the root causes.

“So we should be working to fix our immigration system, and find ways to create affordable housing for everyone,” Stein said.

The Immigrant Legal Advocacy also condemned the letter, writing that “Senator Collins’ request that ‘DHS verify all destination addresses prior to allowing entry into the country’ would undermine the United States’ international treaty obligations and does not reflect the realities that migrants are facing.”

But a spokesperson for the city of Portland wrote in a statement that the city is supportive of the Senator’s effort, because the city wants to “make sure we can provide compassionate care, and given our numbers and existing space, that’s not possible.”

At a city council meeting last week, Portland’s mayor and interim city manager both said   the city is nearing a tipping point where it will not be able to provide shelter for new arrivals as shelter space fills up and city staff are stretched thin.

At least 743 asylum seekers have arrived in Portland since January.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.