After ‘heartbreaking’ trip to Europe, Chellie Pingree says US and Maine need to take in more refugees

After returning from a week-long trip to Ukraine’s border areas, Rep. Chellie Pingree said Friday the United States and Maine needed to take in many more Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden said the United States would take in up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. But, the country needs to do more, Pingree said, setting the long-standing “embarrassing” refugee quota.

The United States lags far behind Europe in refugee policy, Pingree said, noting that the small country of Moldova has already allowed the entry of about 350,000 Ukrainian refugees.

“It’s one of the poorest countries in Europe, and they’re already meeting the quota we just said we would take,” said Pingree, who wrote to Biden on Thursday asking him to speed up resettlement. Ukrainians in the United States.

Traveling to Europe as part of a trip with a bipartisan congressional delegation, Pingree spent time in the Ukrainian border areas of Moldova, Romania and Poland as well as in Austria. She also spoke with several Ukrainian refugees at the border crossings.

“Obviously it’s heartbreaking to see people with their plastic bags full of stuff,” Pingree said. “I think most of us couldn’t imagine what it feels like.”

Pingree said she hopes Maine will take in some of the refugees fleeing the war, noting that many Ukrainians have family members in the state.

While Pingree supports substantial military aid to Ukrainian fighters, it does not support the US no-fly zone requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Pingree said she understands the desire to intervene directly in light of the significant humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine. But she fears an incident could trigger a nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia.

“It’s impacting our country – you know, it’s like we’ve just started something that we may not be able to survive,” Pingree said.

As she traveled through Europe, one thing that struck her was the central role that one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin, continued to play in the conflict.

“It all comes down to the psychological assessment of a lunatic,” Pingree said.

Pingree spoke at his Portland office on Friday morning, less than 12 hours after landing at Portland International Jetport.

Although she recognized that more needed to be done on the military and humanitarian fronts in Ukraine, she said the trip gave her optimism on many fronts. Ukrainians were fighting bravely to repel Russian aggression, she said. And in a bitterly partisan environment, Republicans and Democrats have seemingly united to help them do just that.

“Almost universally [Ukrainian] people say we plan to win this,” Pingree said. “We are not yet ready to negotiate our exit.”