Oregon lawmakers approve millions for refugee resettlement
With headwinds blowing from the White House to Oregon, local officials are increasingly signaling their support for migrants and refugees.
State lawmakers gave the Department of Human Services an extra $2 million for resettlement and case management services for refugees — with the emergency declaration of general fund dollars spearheaded by Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham.
"If you live in Gresham, refugees are your neighbors," Piluso said during a press conference organized by Unite Oregon. "In 2019, the legislature stood up and said Oregon won't be the amazing place we love without immigrants and refugees."
The nonprofit's supporters gathered Saturday, Aug. 3 for a roundtable at its East Portland office on Southeast 122nd Avenue, spurred by swirling reports that President Trump's policy advisor, Stephen Miller, is pushing to cap refugee admissions at zero in 2020.
While that story remains hearsay, the U.S. State Department did set a ceiling of 30,000 refugees to be allowed on American soil in 2019, down from 45,000 the year before.
Stephanie Stephens, identifying herself as the first Muslim to serve as vice chair of the David Douglas School Board, said the caps had already forced the closure of some nonprofits that help refugees adjust to their new homes.
"Our humanitarian systems are completely under attack," Stephens said. "Refugee resettlement at zero would mean the entire system will collapse."
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, the son of parents who fled Nazi Germany, said at the event he was proud to support fellow refugees. Wyden traveled to the southern border last weekend, where he nabbed headlines for helping a Mexican woman with pregnancy complications apply for asylum.
The woman was initially rejected by Customs & Border Protection, but was taken to a Texas hospital after Wyden and an Oregon pediatrician intervened, noting that Mexican nationals' asylum claims can not be "metered," according to the Washington Post.
"Opposing zero caps, supporting resettlement policy, standing up for comprehensive immigration reform — these are principles that in America we have held dear for decades," Wyden said.
Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann said her board had spent $750,000 on legal aid resources for refugees and expats over the past two years. Multnomah County declared itself a "Welcoming County" in 2017.
"We are a nation of immigrants," Stegmann said, "And as one of those immigrants, and a proud U.S. citizen, I am appalled by the racism and hatred that our federal government continues to demonstrate."
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