I attended the Waterville City Council meeting on July 3. It was long and, at times, heated as we discussed the annual budget (including the school budget), as well as needed repairs to the city’s swimming pool and water slide. A number of people spoke to the governor’s refusal to honor the state’s revenue-sharing agreement, which has resulted in city taxpayers having to make up the difference.

In the context of this discussion, one individual pointed critically to the humanitarian assistance that “non-citizen residents” of the state — immigrants — receive in the form of welfare as being partially to blame for the state’s obstruction of revenue sharing. Another individual expressed opposition to this sort of explicit targeting of immigrants as a problem, noting that there is a humanitarian crisis underway on our southern border, where immigrant children coming from war-torn countries in Central America are being brutally torn from their families, housed in cages, denied the legal right of asylum, and worse.

I have been to a number of heated council meetings recently, but I was still shocked to hear the burst of loud heckling that followed this compassionate observation. I spontaneously covered my ears and bowed my head in shame. Thinking about this event again the next morning, I was struck anew with sadness and disappointment that the same people who enjoy the freedoms and benefits of life in Waterville — complete with good schools, minimal violence and crime, and an inexpensive public pool for our children to play in during the hot summer months — were so ready to mock and jeer those desperate families and children at our southern border who are suffering so very much. Surely we can do better than this.

Elizabeth Leonard


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