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(NECN: Marnie MacLean, Portland, Maine) - The mayor of Portland, Maine went on a listening tour of immigrant owned businesses in the city on Thursday.
Michael Brennan is publicly supporting the sweeping immigration reform bill now headed to the Senate for debate.
Brennan met with owners of several businesses, including a taxi company, grocery store and a restaurant. Immigrants are twice as likely as U.S. born citizens to start their own businesses and Brennan believes it makes sense to create a clearer path to citizenship. Brennan said, "I also believe recognizing the people who have been here and finding a way for them to achieve legal status while working here."
If passed, the reform bill would offer a roadmap to 11 million undocumented immigrants working and living in this country.
Many immigrants in Portland came to the area seeking asylum. They say they want to work but current laws and paperwork backlogs can often mean waiting a year or more before they are given permission to work in the U.S.
Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the immigration reform bill written by a bi-partisan gang of eight. It's expected to go to the full Senate after the Memorial Day break.