Three major counties in the Portland metro area will keep their doors open to refugees.
Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties have posted letters to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — complying with an executive order that requires local and state governments to opt-in for refugee resettlement to continue within their bounds.
Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard made the move first on Dec. 10, with a consent decree noting that the nation "was founded by immigrants and refugees seeking political or religious asylum."
Multnomah County commissioners voted 5-0 to issue the decree on Jan. 9, and Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington sent the letter on Jan. 14.
"We pride ourselves on being a safe place to live, we embrace our diversity and we welcome newcomers," Harrington wrote.
As it turns out, the policy was hamstrung on Jan. 15, after a Maryland federal judge temporarily blocked the executive order, which had made the letters a prerequisite for refugee agencies to get federal dollars. Several such agencies had sued over the matter.
The Justice Department could appeal the ruling, however.
The order was issued in September by President Donald Trump, who has also lowered the national cap on refugees from 30,000 in 2019 to 18,000 in 2020 — the lowest limit on record since 1980, according to the Associated Press. In comparison, President Barack Obama accepted 110,000 refugees during his last year in office.
At least 40 governors and 80 jurisdictions have formally stated their consent to rehousing persons displaced by war, persecution or natural disasters, though Texas had said it would not accept them.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a resettlement welcome letter on Dec. 16, saying in a video that "no one chooses to be a refugee."
"Refugee resettlement is not a free pass to another country," she added.
Resettlement is a lifeline our country provides to the worldâ€™s most vulnerable refugees. The Trump admin will soon require states to opt IN to welcoming refugees, their latest attack against immigrant & refugee communities. These are not the values on which our country was built. pic.twitter.com/ImoJoIiJiH— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) October 21, 2019
More than 67,000 refugees have been resettled in Oregon since 1975, reports Multnomah County policy adviser Nicole Buchanan. Census data shows 17.5% of Washington County residents were born outside the U.S., compared with 14% in Multnomah County and 8% in Clackamas County.
"Unfortunately, our president is politicizing a humanitarian issue at the expense of people who are seeking protection from violence and persecution — the very people who make our nation great," Multnomah Chair Deborah Kafoury said at the dais.
According to the United Nations, around 67% of all refugees come from five nations: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. There are more than 70 million refugees worldwide, and about half are children under age 18.
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