The Sanford Police Department posted a notice to social media informing followers that the city has “no more capacity to house any more families” after 23 Angolan families arrived in Sanford throughout the week.
Sources tell the Maine Wire the families have been arriving all week, placed on vehicles at the Portland Jetport. Their origin is said to be Angola, but it’s unclear where they boarded the flight.
At least one family was transported to the Sanford Post Office, where a School Committee Member Jennifer Davie found them looking lost and directed them to city hall.
Although there was speculation that the city of Portland had relocated some families from shelters in the greater Portland area, Rep. Lucas Lanigan (R-Sanford), who was there when some of the migrants arrived in Sanford, said they had come right from the airport.
“I happened to be there when Jen Davie brought them to city hall,” said Lanigan.
“My wife who just received her citizenship a couple years ago was visibly shaken with tears in her eyes. We could not believe how they were being treated, just dumped in a city with limited resources and a plastic shopping bag of clothes each,” Lanigan said.
“No money, food, or any way to communicate,” he said.
The city of Portland, which has typically handled most migrant new arrivals, denied any involvement in or foreknowledge of the new arrivals.
“I do not have any details as this is not something we were involved in. We did not send them there,” Portland Communications Director Jessica Grondin said in an email.
Davie did not immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment about her involvement in the relocation.
“There is way more going on then the citizens of Sanford are being told,” one Sanford source said.
At the moment, it’s unclear where the flights have originated from or whether the Department of Homeland Security or another state government helped arrange the flights.
The relocation comes amidst an ongoing humanitarian crisis in southern Maine that has seen thousands of jobless and homeless migrants, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, come to Maine seeking assistance and economic opportunity.
The arrivals have presented difficulties for Maine’s social safety network, but also for Maine’s schools, which have struggled to accommodate a surge in English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.
Several leaders in Maine’s biggest cities have said their municipal budgets and resources have been strained to the breaking point by the influx of “New Mainers,” and now Sanford joins that list.
“The Sanford Police Dept. would like to inform the public of approximately 23 families that have found their way to our city,” the Sanford PD noted ambiguously on its Facebook page.
The department said local nonprofits were helping make accommodations for the city’s newest arrivals.
“At this time our City has no more capacity to house any more families and that information is being relayed to the newly arrived families and our community partners statewide,” the PD said.
“We want our citizens to be informed of this situation when they see our visitors around the city,” the PD said.
Although the statement described the new arrivals as “visitors,” it’s unclear how temporary the new arrangement will be.
In South Portland, several migrant families have been housed in hotels and motels since the pandemic began in 2020.
Sanford area hotels are also assisting with the humanitarian effort.
“We need to make sure our “New Mainers” are safe, and feel like they have a future in our country,” Lanigan said. “Instead we are moving them around our communities like chess pieces to win favor with far left voters. I know we can do better and I am committed to finding real solutions that are a hand up finding the opportunity they dream of.”
“We should be calling on the Mills administration to sue the federal government for the resources to make this happen,” he said.
UPDATE: According to a local source, on Sunday, May 5 more asylum seekers were dropped off in front of Sanford City Hall.
Asylum seekers were seen sitting in front of Sanford City Hall on Sunday, with one individual appearing to be talking on a cell phone.
The source added that there are rumors of a clandestine meeting on Sunday, April 23 between Maine Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) and certain city officials.
Among those allegedly in attendance at this meeting was Democratic Sanford State Representative and former Sanford Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio.
The alleged meeting took place to discuss the impending arrival of the migrant families.
It is unclear whether Sanford Police or other city officials not in attendance of the April 23 meeting had prior knowledge of the migrant families’ arrival in their city.