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Rep. Pham, daughter of Vietnamese refugees, comes ‘full circle’ to welcome Afghan refugees to Oregon

Rep. Khanh Pham Wants to Welcome Vietnamese Refugees
Rep. Khanh Pham Wants to Welcome Vietnamese Refugees

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    An Oregon state representative wants to give a proper welcome to the Afghan refugees who will be arriving in the state early next year.

    A proper welcome: Rep. Khanh Pham (House District 46), who was born to Vietnamese refugee parents, is among the leaders of the task force that will manage the resettlement of 1,200 refugees from Afghanistan to Oregon, reported Portland Tribune.

    • The panel, which Pham co-leads with Sen. Kayse Jama (D-Portland), has sought $18 million in funding from Oregon’s Emergency Board to mostly cover housing requirements for the resettlement.
    • The Oregon Emergency Board, chaired by both the president of the Oregon Senate and the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, consists of 20 lawmakers who allocate budgets for such projects in between legislative sessions.
    • Speaking to journalists on Monday, Pham said Oregon is expected to resettle about 1,200 of the estimated 60,000 Afghan refugees arriving in the United States in 2022.
    • “In a state that is facing severe shortages of affordable housing, we want to provide housing assistance for those first few months so they can find a job, get their kids enrolled in school, and be able to have a less traumatic start than many refugees have been able to experience when they came here,” the 43-year-old legislator said.

    A page from history: According to Pham, the fall of Kabul to Taliban forces in August reminded her of the Vietnam War’s end in 1975, which resulted in the mass exodus of Southern Vietnamese refugees, including her parents.

    • Pham was born in Oklahoma, where her parents ended up after fleeing Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).
    • “I do remember even back then, there was a lot of refugee fear-mongering, but also a lot of generosity,” said Pham. “So it means so much to come full circle as a state representative.”
    • Pham now wants to give the arriving Afghan families a better experience than what her parents and other Vietnamese refugees experienced in the past.
    • The task force, which has secured bipartisan support in both legislative chambers, will be implementing a plan based on recommendations from Oregon’s refugee resettlement services and other state agencies.

    Helping fellow refugees: Vietnamese American communities in other parts of the country have also started their initiatives to help with the resettlement of Afghan evacuees.

    • In Colorado Springs, Vietnamese dermatology clinic Vanguard Skin Specialists raised over $100,000 for the resettlement, with some help from Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains and KOAA News 5.
    • In Seattle, a group of friends launched an initiative to pair 75 incoming Afghan families with 75 Vietnamese host families in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
    • In Washington, D.C., a bakery owner whose parents were Vietnamese refugees contributed to the resettlement efforts by donating 10% of her store’s weekend sales, according to NPR.

    Featured Image via Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

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