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Maine asylum seeker wins poetry contest, excluded for not being citizen

PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) — A Portland student and his school district are suing a national poetry competition that barred him from competing even after he won because he is not a United States citizen.

Allan Monga is a junior from Zambia who goes to Deering High School. He competed and won first place at Maine's Poetry Out Loud competition on March 21, when he recited "In the Desert". Winners from around the country are headed to Washington, D.C. on April 23-25.

The Portland School District says that Monga is an asylum seeker and has been granted a social security number and a work permit while his asylum application.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation host the Poetry Out Loud event. The NEA issued the following email statement:

A request for a temporary restraining order has been filed in Maine against the Poetry Out Loud program. The National Endowment for the Arts will not comment on a pending legal matter.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling commented on the ongoing legal case. He said not allowing Monga the chance to compete because he is not a citizen is 'disgraceful.'

"He has legal papers to be here and he has a Social Security number," said Mayor Strimling. "This is an outstanding young man who won this competition for the state of Maine and made all of us very proud. He should be allowed to compete like every other student across the country."

Portland law firm Drummond Woodsum is holding a news conference where we are expected to hear from Allan Monga at 3:00 p.m.

This story will be updated

Letter regarding poetry contest winner Allan Monga by NEWSCENTER26 on Scribd