Portland has welcomed many newcomers to our community over the past decade, and the city is justly proud of its compassionate policy on refugees. But the current situation – described in “Shelter buses more asylum seekers to Portland as city debates assistance” (May 6, Page A1) – suggests that we are entering a new phase, in which growth of Portland’s refugee population threatens to overwhelm the city’s capacity to provide for the new arrivals.

Mayor Ethan Strimling appears to see no limit to the number of new arrivals Portland can host. But as German Chancellor Angela Merkel found, there are limits to even the most enlightened policy of absorbing refugees.

Portland need not be apologetic in recognizing its limitations in welcoming refugees. Failure to recognize those limitations will threaten the city’s capacity to provide services not only for the new arrivals, but also for its existing population – including the refugees that we have welcomed to our community in years past.

Michael Mertaugh


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