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Regional Interests

Oregon leaders react to situation unfolding in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters gather around a vehicle during a protest in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.  Taliban militants have attacked protesters in eastern Afghanistan who dared to take down their banner and replace it with the country’s flag. At least one person was killed in the attack that fueled fears about how the insurgents would govern this fractious nation.
Taliban fighters gather around a vehicle during a protest in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Taliban militants have attacked protesters in eastern Afghanistan who dared to take down their banner and replace it with the country’s flag. At least one person was killed in the attack that fueled fears about how the insurgents would govern this fractious nation.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has responded affirmatively to a letter issued by two state legislators and signed by more than 50 of their colleagues calling on the governor and federal delegates to urge the Biden-Harris Administration to raise caps on refugees allowed into the United States.

In a statement published Wednesday morning, Gov. Brown said that Oregon “stands ready” to assist the federal government as the nation receives refugee families from Afghanistan following the collapse of their state to the Taliban.

Her statement comes in response to a letter from State Rep. Khanh Pham, D-NE/SE Portland, and Sen. Kayse Jama, D-SE Portland/North Clackamas who asked Oregon’s top leaders to use their influence in committing the federal government to act in support of those fleeing violence and persecution.

“Over the last two decades, thousands of Afghans have worked alongside U.S. military service members, as interpreters and translators and in other roles, risking their lives as they contributed to our efforts in their country. The lives of Afghan women and girls are at risk simply because they had the audacity to learn in school and pursue careers,” Brown’s statement said. “Oregon is ready to welcome any and all Afghans who would make our state their home.”

Sen. Ron Wyden said he spoke with Jama and Pham Tuesday and told them he supports their urgent call to expand the number of Afghan refugees eligible to be resettled in the U.S.

“I’m pushing the administration to immediately implement the law I fought for that expanded the pool of Afghan refugees who can get special immigrant visas because as a child of refugees from Nazi Germany, I know both how America has long provided a safe place for those fleeing violence — and how we should continue our historic commitment to refugees who strengthen our country,” Wyden said.

According to Brown’s office, the state of Oregon has welcomed more than 75,000 refugees since 1975.

The governor said she hopes President Joe Biden will work with Congress to lift refugee admission caps and take other humanitarian actions in an effort to save lives.

“It’s critical that the United States take steps to evacuate as many people in danger from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, including expediting the visa approval process, particularly for those Afghans and their families who have risked their lives in service of this country,” she said. “Oregon will continue to be a welcoming and inclusive place for all who call our state home – including and especially our immigrant and refugee communities.”

On Sunday, Congressman Earl Blumenauer was one of the first Oregon leaders to speak on this issue when he published a statement calling for swift action to evacuate all American personnel, staff of non-government organizations and Afghan allies who put their families in harm’s way to help the U.S.

“I helped create the Special Immigrant Visa program with former Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, two leaders who understood the United States’ duty to the people who helped our troops and were promised protection in return,” Blumenauer’s statement said. “Being a friend should not be fatal, but our window to meet this promise is shrinking by the hour. There will be time later to unpack exactly what went wrong. Now is the time to save lives.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting