Maine is a long way from Afghanistan, but there are things that we can do about the humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding before our eyes.

The people of Maine, speaking through their government, should clearly state that the Afghan refugees we see running for their lives will be able to make their homes here.

Afghans sit outside the French embassy in Kabul on Tuesday as they wait to leave the country. Zakeria Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images/TNS

Gov. Mills should join the growing list of state chief executives who are letting the White House know that they are ready to help people to whom we have a moral obligation.

A model of what to do comes from Utah’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox. In a letter to President Biden this week, Cox wrote:

“I recognize Utah plays no direct role in shaping U.S. diplomatic or military policy, but we have a long history of welcoming refugees from around the world and helping them restart their lives in a new country … Please advise us in the coming days and weeks how we can assist.”

Making an offer like that would be perfectly consistent with Maine’s policy under Mills’ leadership.


Since taking office in 2019, Mills has championed immigration as one way to bolster our aging workforce and build a stronger economy. It’s not just empty words: She recognizes that people escaping war zones often need material support before they can contribute to our society. Mills changed her predecessor’s rules regarding public assistance for asylum seekers in 2019 when there was an influx of Central African immigrants in the summer of 2019, and she worked with the Legislature to make sure health coverage for pregnant women and children, regardless of their immigration status, was included in the state budget.

Mills has been one of the governors who reaffirmed their states’ commitments to resettling refugees after the program was nearly ended under the Trump administration.

We would expect Maine, which has welcomed refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan and other war-torn countries, to do its part. But that history is no reason to hesitate to speak up.

Refugees are running for their lives right now, and expressing qualms at any level of government about our nation’s capacity to absorb them could slow down their escape. As many as 80,000 people, many of them interpreters and their families, are seeking refuge through the Special Immigrant Visa program and there should be no doubt that America can take them all.

How do we know? We’ve done it before. Within months of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were settled in the United States. They established communities in Southern California, the Texas Gulf Coast and here in Maine.

The Biden administration needs to hear from states as different as Maine and Utah that we are ready to do it again.

America’s 20-year military commitment to defend Afghanistan is over, but our moral commitment to protecting human rights in the country will never end.

That starts by doing whatever we can for the families whose lives are in danger because of their association with us and because of their adoption of our ideas about liberty and democracy. Maine may be a long way from Afghanistan, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can to save as many as we can.

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