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State lawmakers urge Gov. Brown to offer Oregon as safe haven for Afghan refugees

“Oregon is a very compassionate and welcoming state, and that has been our history and we'll continue those traditions,” said Sen. Kayse Jama.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the powerful corresponding images have captured the attention of people across the globe, including state legislators in Oregon.

“I'm just feeling very heartbroken,” Rep. Khanh Pham said. “The pictures of the terror and the panic and the length people are going to hold onto airplanes as they're lifting off.”

“It's just heartbreaking what's going on in Afghanistan,” Sen. Kayse Jama added. “It’s difficult to comprehend. It’s sad.”

Sen. Jama and Rep. Pham, with the support of dozens of state legislators from both chambers and both parties, wrote a letter to Gov. Kate Brown urging her to offer up Oregon as a safe haven for Afghan refugees.

“We need to recognize this as the emergency that it is, a crisis, and respond to that need — that human need in crisis,” Rep. Pham said.

“Oregon is a very compassionate and welcoming state, and that has been our history and we'll continue those traditions,” Sen. Jama added.

RELATED: Oregon legislators call on Biden to lift refugee cap amid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

“Rep. Pham and Sen. Jama are leaders not just locally but nationally,” said Britt Conroy, public policy director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, a nonprofit that resettles refugees. 

Conroy said it is not a matter of if Oregon will see Afghan refugees fleeing the turmoil overseas, but when. Conroy says EMO and its partners will be ready to assist with housing, furnishings, food and academic support, among other things.

"Really the work is helping someone get their feet on the ground, feel welcome and start the day-to-day efforts of working, going to school and connecting with community,” Conroy said.

Rep. Pham will say there is no better place for that than Oregon.

“I envision a state where Oregonians are volunteering to see how they can help and opening their homes if needed and trying to step up and show the hospitality I know we hold,” Rep. Pham said.

RELATED: Biden: Troops will stay in Afghanistan to evacuate Americans

Gov. Brown said she received the letter from the state legislators and she supports the idea of resettling Afghan families in Oregon.

“Oregon is ready to welcome our refugee sisters and brothers from Afghanistan, and the rest of the world,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “I am hopeful the Biden-Harris administration, along with Congress, will lift refugee admission caps and take other emergency humanitarian actions to save lives.”

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