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'Organized effort' bringing asylum seekers to Sanford, according to city manager

City Manager Steven Buck said many of the asylum seekers who have come to Sanford for assistance were brought there.

SANFORD, Maine — Leaders in Sanford are trying to figure out how to help and house the more than 200 asylum seekers that have made their way to the city since the end of April.

During an emergency meeting Tuesday night, Sanford City Manager Steven Buck shared new information on why the people seeking asylum have come to the city and how. 

Before a packed room at city hall, Buck said there’s an organized effort shuttling asylum seekers to Sanford.

"I’ve learned today the names of the individuals that were actively recruiting at the Portland Expo," he said. "We have that information now and we’ll drill down on that."

The city said it's providing temporary housing for approximately 100 people and vouchers to buy basic necessities such as food, but added there are another 100 asylum seekers they're unable to house. 

"There's no further capacity for hotel rooms or other housing options here in our community," Buck explained. 

During the meeting, city leaders discouraged members of the public from providing asylum seekers with temporary housing.

"Such offers cause asylum seekers to leave secure housing in Portland to come here," Mayor Becky Brink of Sanford said.

As for the next steps, the city will begin general assistance meetings on Wednesday for first arrivals. Buck said asylum seekers need to file for weekly benefits, which will be provided if they continue to qualify. 

"We're legally mandated to provide general assistance whether you agree or disagree with asylum seeker status," Buck added.

The city will also look to see which asylum seekers voluntarily left other housing options for Sanford. Buck explained doing so would disqualify them from receiving benefits.

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