On Monday, I stopped by the Portland Masjid and Islamic Center on Washington Avenue, to see how things are going.  Things are going well.  This masjid (the Arabic word for "mosque") was set up by a group of immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, as a place for communal prayer and study, and for an occasional break-fast spot during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  According to one of the members, a group of Muslims from Iraq began showing up for Friday noon prayers.  Though people from Iraq and Afghanistan are quite different, ethnically, there was no problem at all: the man told me that everyone is always welcome.

Maine should be a place where everyone is welcome.  We are, quite literally, a place of refuge, and people fleeing war and famine come to live in Maine, in hopes of starting a new life.  In return, these refugees enrich our state culturally and economically.  Other people come to Maine looking for economic opportunity--a chance to start a business, or work in a particular profession. 

We should do everything we can to encourage people to come to Maine.  New people bring new ideas, which could lead to a growth in our economy or an improvement in our already-high quality of life.  New people bring a new perspective, at a time when the state is hoping to improve the way it does business.

I was disappointed that Governor LePage rescinded Governor Baldacci's Executive Order relating to the questioning of people about their immigration status.  I don't think it will make any difference in Maine's economy--government workers were already allowed to question people about immigration status when it was actually relevant (for example, when you needed to be a citizen to receive certain benefit).  And, I have seen no evidence that undocumented immigrants are actually receiving benefits to which they are not entitled.

All the order does is send the message that immigrants are not welcome, dividing the world into "us" and "them".  My friends at the Washington Avenue masjid welcome all comers because their religion commands them to.  Aside from religion, though, there are many good reasons for Maine to adopt the same attitude.