A palpable arousal has overtaken the refugee resettlement community in Portland, as they gear up to receive an influx of Afghan refugees
For Oregon organizations that contract with the federal government to help refugees resettle in the US, the sobering headlines meant an immediate shift in workload.
“The pace of what happened—I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Matthew Westerbeck, director of refugee services for Catholic Charities. “We are all ramping up as fast as we can to prepare. We’re about to see an influx of refugee families in a way we haven’t seen in this country for years.”
Catholic Charities is one of three Oregon agencies that receives funding from the federal government to support refugees seeking to resettle in the US. That work ranges from securing affordable housing for refugee families to connecting refugees with new employers to making sure refugee children feel comfortable at school. With thousands of Afghans fleeing Afghanistan out of fear of its new extremist leadership, these agencies have been told to prepare for an avalanche of newcomers seeking a new community to call home.
Donald Trump did manage sensible immigration and refugee policies, slashing the number refugee numbers and putting a lot of the resettlement grifters out of work. Alas, just about everything good Trump managed was through executive action, and was immediately undone with the arrival of Biden.
It doesn’t help that refugee resettlement agencies like LCSN and Catholic Charities are emerging from a period of record divestment in their work by the federal government. The Trump administration’s strict limits on the number of refugees allowed into the US left resettlement agencies with little funding and stability to support the coming surge in refugees.
Westerbeck said that in 2016, Catholic Charities helped resettle 589 refugees across Oregon. In 2020, that number had dropped to 66.
The resettlement programs have received extra support from the Oregon government over the past several years to make up for the federal gap. But it’s still left the programs largely unprepared for the expected capacity need.
To ramp back up for the expected surge in Afghan refugees, Westerbeck said his organization will be seeking donations—to cover newcomers’ rent and utility bills—and volunteers—to serve as “cultural navigators” for refugees who need guidance navigating their new environment, to help furnish new apartments, and to greet refugees at the airport. He’s also seeking landlords who are willing to offer affordable rentals to refugees or employers who may be open to hiring the newcomers.
Westerbeck, who began at Catholic Charities as a volunteer, said he has faith that the Portland community will step up to support the new refugee residents. It’s lightened the heaviness of the past week’s headlines [I’m sure it did]…
Brown responded with strong support, pledging to urge the White House to expedite refugee relocation and increase the country’s cap on the number of refugees it accepts annually. The current refugee cap was set at 62,500 per year by President Joe Biden in May. Trump had set the yearly cap at 15,000.
If the US takes in something like 30,000 Afghan refugees mostly selected from the collaborator class I don’t expect we’ll have the sort of problems Europe has had with its Afghan refugees who, like those from the Muslim world generally, come from the young, male and troublesome part of the population; but it’s worth noting again the Europe “rape gang” phenomenon (not to be confused with another Pashtun-in-the-West phenomenon, grooming gangs) is overwhelmingly an Afghan thing:
But there was one development [following Merkel’s “refugee” influx of 2012] that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up—no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers. As the incidents increased, and because many of them took place in public or because the public became involved either in stopping the attack or in aiding the victim afterwards, and because the courts began issuing sentences as the cases came to trial, the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.
Our Afghans won’t be that bad because they won’t be selected from anyone who can make the walk. Likewise our Muslims, who I’ve always found amiable enough, and their womens’ modesty admirable. Of course, they’ve also produced such as Ilahn Omar and Rashida Tlaib. The demagogues are inevitable now regardless of the source population, but the well-behaved aspect of our non-African Muslims may change as Biden flings the border open further and the group is no longer selected for better traits. Europe absorbs the Muslim equivalent of our southern traffic from Latin America; God bless our relatively placid Mexicans. As somebody once quipped, we had the good sense not to locate our county north of the MIddle East. The powers-that-be are seeking to right that unfortunate oversight..
Anyway, welcome, Afghan newcomers. You may find you feel right at home here.