A federal judge has blocked a Maine law that previously banned logging companies from hiring immigrant truckers to haul their logs within the state. 

The bill prohibiting forest landowners and trucking companies from using immigrant laborers to haul logs harvested in Maine for delivery in Maine was passed in the Spring of 2021 and was sponsored by Senate president Troy Jackson – a former professional logger who felt that Maine timber companies were taking jobs away from Maine residents by illegally hiring Canadian workers for less money. 

US District Court Judge John Woodcock has since granted a preliminary injunction against the law. Woodcock says that Maine state officials may have legitimate concerns about the use of foreign laborers under the H-2A visa program, but the law banning the use of these workers “is not a constitutional means of addressing these concerns.” Woodcock also says the now-blocked law is an attempt at overriding federal immigration law, reported Maine Public.

“Although the court understands the state’s interest in protecting Maine workers and ensuring that employers do not hire foreign workers where there are United States workers able and willing to do the job, Congress already considered the interests of the United States workforce against an employer’s need for workers and it has balanced those interests in developing the H -2A program as part of its national immigration and naturalization policy,” Woodcock wrote.

The Maine Forest Products Council, among others, argued that the now-blocked law not only allowed Maine to overstep its legal authority, but also violated the “equal protection” provisions of the Maine and U.S. constitutions. Executive Director of the Forest Industry Trade Group, Patrick Strauch, says that the logging landowners and trucking companies only apply to hire laborers from Canada because they can’t find Americans willing to do the job.  

“Employment, particularly of drivers, is tight right now and when wood needs to move, we need to have the capacity to move it,” Strauch said in an interview. “So it’s not an issue of stealing jobs from anybody. It’s about getting the work done.”

“What this law did was enforce the federal law of point-to-point hauling in Maine, which happens nowhere else in the United States,” Jackson said Tuesday, arguing that  “point-to-point” hauling jobs should be reserved for American citizens.

“Nowhere else do Mexicans or Canadians do point-to-point hauling in the United States.”

Jackson also pointed out that the now-blocked law only kept Canadians from hauling logs from the state within the state, but did not prevent them from taking trucking jobs with delivery from Maine to Canada, or other parts of the United States.  

“I’m not going to give up,” Jackson said. “That’s where I come from. That’s the people who elected me. And not only that, they’re on the right side of this. No other state allows this in any occupation. It’s only Maine, it’s only in logging that federal law is allowed to be violated.”

While the now-blocked law had yet to be fully enforced, Maine’s Attorney General, Aaron Frey, said that he heard multiple first-hand accounts from woods workers who said they were offered more hauling jobs in 2021 because landowners and trucking companies began working towards following the Maine-workers-only rule. Jackson says that these stories prove that too many Canadian truckers are hauling loads that rightfully belong to Maine workers. 

The suspension of the law is only temporary, and additional court action is expected.

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