Oregon’s Rohingya community was shocked to find their home country of Myanmar added to the Trump travel ban in 2020. Now that President Biden has revoked the ban, will the administration acknowledge the crimes committed against their people?
On his first day in office, President Biden repealed the Trump administration’s ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority and African countries. In a statement, Biden said “Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
Suddenly, many immigrant communities in the United States were granted a renewed hope that they could reunite with relatives still living abroad. But there are still many challenges for immigrant communities in the Pacific Northwest. Many have been working for years to help family members resettle from abroad to live with them.
That’s the case in Oregon’s Rohingya community. The Rohingya have faced significant displacement across the region since the 1970s, but that displacement skyrocketed in 2017 when the United Nations estimates that at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed by Myanmar’s state forces. The U.N. described the attacks as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
(It’s worth noting that both names of the country — Burma and Myanmar — are contested: some critics say Myanmar is problematic because it’s the name that was elevated by the military junta that took over several decades ago and hasn’t been approved by the citizens; others say Burma is problematic because it’s the colonial name, and the country’s current government argues it refers to a single, large ethnic group and isn’t inclusive of all residents.)
As a result of the widespread violence, nearly a million Rohingya have fled their homeland of Myanmar. Most are refugees in the neighboring country of Bangladesh, but about a thousand have resettled here in Southeast Portland.