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We’ve read the news of dramatic escapes from Kabul, about Americans trying to rescue their friends as the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. Many Maine veterans know the Afghans from first-hand experience. But what are we doing? Has our state made a statement to welcome those now camped in U.S. military bases?
Maine’s population is older than most states. Maine has a widespread shortage of workers — in health care, hospitality, retail, and many other services. Even our volunteer fire departments are short-handed. The state needs young families.
A Pentagon spokesperson said on Oct. 25 that about 53,000 Afghans are waiting at eight military installations in the United States to be processed for resettlement. Another 3,500 are waiting at bases abroad.
Press reports indicated that Maine would receive about 100 Afghan refugees in the next few months. Surely Maine has room for at least 1,000 or more.
Some might say it costs too much to organize the program needed for refugees. Yet, there are federal programs to aid in resettlement, as well as many charitable organizations helping as well. Together we could provide language classes, occupational training and education, as well as cover housing, health care and other needs. Maine has never lacked for volunteers and good neighbors when there was an emergency. This is one of those times.
Would there be prejudice or discrimination against these Muslim refugees? We know that many of these refugees worked for the American forces; they served as interpreters, guides, teachers and cooks. They must have believed in democracy, women’s rights and freedom of expression at the risk of their lives. What better citizens could we want? The answer is not to shut out new people, but to include them in building our future.
Blue Hill First Congregational Church Outreach Committee