We are heartened by the Biden administration’s pledged to take in 100,000 Ukrainians made refugees by the Russian invasion. We can only hope they live up to it.

Through this point in his term, President Biden has failed to live up to his promise to reaffirm the U.S. as a world leader amid a historic refugee crisis, as more than 68 million people worldwide were displaced by war, famine and government persecution.

It is a crisis that President Trump sat out, as the U.S. took fewer and fewer refugees each year, ending with the lowest acceptance numbers in the program’s four-decade history.

Biden said he would be different, promising to reestablish the U.S. as a place of safety and opportunity for people who desperately need both.

So far, he has not fulfilled that promise. Last year, the U.S. committed to bringing in more than 62,000 refugees, but only resettled about 11,400. This year, the cap on refugees was raised to 125,000, but from Oct. 1-Feb. 16, fewer than 4,500 have been admitted.

The scenes out of Ukraine and its neighbors should change that. More than 3 million Ukrainians were displaced in just three weeks, forced from their homes by Russian missiles and shells, usually with just the clothes on their backs and maybe a few keepsakes.

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Morning Sentinel photograph Michael G. Seamans, on assignment near Ukraine with the Pulitzer Center and USA Today, captured some of these folks while at a temporary refugee center in Moldova, a small, poor country that is housing Ukrainians at great cost.

The Ukrainians, just like refugees throughout history, are scared and tired as they’ve watched their entire world unravel. “They haven’t slept,” a volunteer pediatrician told a reporter traveling with Seamans. “They’re in great stress from things they saw back home, and they don’t know the future.”

On her recent trip to eastern Europe, Maine Sen. Susan Collins also spoke with one of these refugees, a mother who with her two young daughters had to flee Ukraine while her husband stayed behind to fight.

“She told me that she has never lived anywhere but Ukraine and all she wanted was to live in peace in her country and keep her children safe, but because she couldn’t keep her children safe she was forced to leave,” Collins told Colin Woodard of the Press Herald.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, who also made a trip to Moldova, too saw families who had been torn apart by the war. “It was gut-wrenching to talk with the families crossing the border who left fathers, sons and brothers behind. Many also left grandparents who were unable or unwilling to move,” she told Woodard.

We can’t forget those people, and all the others like them, who have already endured so much, and no doubt have a long road ahead of them. Most want to return to Ukraine one day. But if a home in the U.S., temporary or permanent, is what they need now, we should let them in.

At the same time, we can’t continue to ignore the fact that there are millions of other refugees across the world. They are also desperate for safety and certainty, and the U.S. should provide that security whenever possible.


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