Gov. Paul LePage is defending the Trump administration’s immigrant family separation policy while showing a complete lack of understanding of US asylum law. Speaking to reporters at a Portland Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Wednesday, LePage at first denied that the child separations were even happening.

“I think there’s a lot of politics going on down on the border right now. This thing about separating children from their parents — that’s not what’s happening,” LePage said in a video posted by the Bangor Daily News.

Then the governor acknowledged that US authorities are snatching children from their parents, but suggested that the Central American asylum seekers, many of whom are fleeing violence in their home countries, can avoid it if they simply go back home and apply for asylum in the US.

“There’s no reason they can’t go back home,” said the governor in a video posted by the Bangor Daily News. “Nobody’s stopping them. Trump’s not trying to stop them. If they want to go back home and apply and do it legally they’re welcome to do that.”

However, under US asylum law, foreign nationals may only apply for asylum if they are physically present in the US or at the US border. And the very definition of an asylum seeker is someone who can’t go back to their home country for fear of violence and persecution. The governor has often incorrectly stated that Central African asylum seekers in Maine are “illegal immigrants.”

A number of state governors, including Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, have pledged not to send any National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border to protest the inhumane treatment of families seeking asylum. But when asked if he would deploy Maine National Guard troops to the US/Mexico border, LePage was unequivocal.

“Absolutely. And the reason why is this: If you know my history, we took a young man from Jamaica to Maine,” said LePage. “I put him through high school, I put him through college. I spent $100,000 and it took me 11 years to get a green card. Why? Because of so many illegals. Why don’t we either 1, just fix the law or 2, for every person who comes in illegally, let someone who has been waiting in line, doing it legally into the country.”

The young man, Devon Raymond Jr., was not seeking asylum from violence or persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, as US asylum law requires. LePage announced later that day that he will send two National Guard helicopters with two pilots to help patrol the US-Mexico border.

R.I.P Fuddruckers

Meanwhile, in a strange and incoherent radio address last week, the governor ripped Democrats for not voting on a bill to provide funding for Medicaid expansion, even though he opposes the bill and is openly flouting a voter-mandated law requiring him to file the necessary paperwork to expand Medicaid.

“As the session neared its end, Democrats sat on their hands, hoping voters wouldn’t notice that they avoided voting on important bills,” said LePage. “They didn’t vote on tax conformity or Medicaid expansion, and they didn’t vote to increase the reimbursement rates for direct-care workers who are usually paid based on the minimum wage.”







But while the the governor complained that Maine doesn’t have enough direct-care workers and providers say they need higher Medicaid reimbursements in order to pay higher wages to attract and retain workers, LePage inisisted the “market should set their pay rates — not the government.” Instead, the governor called on the Legislature to pass his bill to delay increases in the minimum wage and eliminate cost-of-living increases so that providers won’t have to give raises to their workers, who generally make about $11 an hour. And even though several providers supported increasing the minimum wage because they are competing with easier jobs in retail or fast food at comparable or higher wages, LePage says he has a solution to the labor shortage: eliminate the requirement that 14- and 15-year-olds acquire work permits.

“If 30,000 teens could get to work right away, this would ease some of the pressure on wages and help our summer tourism industry,” said the governor.

On Monday LePage, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with his arm in a sling due to surgery he recently received for an injury he sustained after getting hit by a car in Florida last fall, continued his crusade against the minimum wage.

“Minimum wage. It’s killing the state,” said LePage. “We’re losing, our elderly are being hammered, hammered, hammered [sic].... We’re heading for a real serious catastrophe with the minimum wage.”

The following day, the governor tweeted a press release from the fast food chain Fuddruckers announcing its decision to close a franchise in Ellsworth. “Fuddruckers is closing due to 3 factors: “Seasonal business, rising labor costs & overall costs of doing business have prevented us from covering our expenses,’” wrote LePage. “Government can’t solve 1st; Legislature must solve 2 & 3. Get gov’t out of the way.”

Mike Tipping, spokesman for Mainers for Fair Wages, noted that none of LePage’s dire predictions have come true.

“Since the wage increases began, employment, hours and incomes are all up while prices are down,” wrote Tipping in an email. “Gov. LePage guaranteed that unemployment would surge to 10% if voters passed a minimum wage increase, instead it’s fallen to 3%, the lowest in decades. The voters didn’t believe the governor’s lies and I don’t believe legislators will either.”

The governor’s minimum wage bill narrowly survived a vote in the Senate, but the Democratic-led House will likely kill it in the next day or so.

A Job in the Trump Administration?

In other “All the Rage” news, LePage told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on June 16 that President Trump has “made some overtures” regarding a potential job in the administration when the governor’s term ends next year. LePage was widely believed to be angling for a job during his constant trips down to Washington DC, where he stayed at the Trump International Hotel. The governor has been a staunch Trump supporter, having endorsed him in the 2016 primary, signed on to legal briefs supporting the president’s so-called Muslim ban and even going so far as recommending the president for a Nobel Prize. But despite LePage’s reputation as America’s “Trumpiest Governor,” he still can’t get the recognition he feels he deserves.

“Very few people know who I am,” LePage complained to reporters Wednesday. “The reason for that is that the press and the media don’t care.”