Port: The Mother of Exiles

I'm glad North Dakota will be able to do our part to help with the disaster in Afghanistan. I wish we had been successful in making their home country a place they could stay, but it's gratifying, in lieu of that, to share our home with them.

PHOTO: Afghan refugees
Evacuees from Afghanistan depart from a C-17 Globemaster III and board a transportation bus at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Jan K. Valle / Handout via Reuters)

MINOT, N.D. — With news that North Dakota will be accepting 49 refugees from Afghanistan, I suspect we're going to see a lot of vocal proponents of our war there, people who have castigated President Joe Biden for his abysmal handling of our catastrophic retreat, complaining about our state taking them in.

Let's ignore these people.

Our country, and our state, should be throwing open its arms for Afghan refugees.

Not just because part of our mission when we invaded their country was helping them.

Not just because we failed in that mission and fled from the violent zealots who have now taken power, leaving them to brutalize the thousands and thousands of Afghans who bought into our mission.


But also because doing so is what it means to be an American.

'The New Colossus,' that famous poem by Emma Lazarus on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty about the masses yearning to breathe free, refers to the monument as the "Mother of Exiles."

Donn Diedrich reaches to help install a new bronze miniature replica of "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" with Andrew Caprio Monday, June 29, west of the Main Avenue Bridge, Fargo. The previous statue was stolen last year. The new statue has security features to prevent theft. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

I wish that name for one of the most recognizable and essential icons of Americanism were used more because it's perfect.

We are a nation of exiles. Descendants of people other countries didn't want. The progeny of those who left bad places seeking something better.

By that measure, our new Afghan friends should fit right in.

It gets lost in our never-ending debates about immigrants and refugees, but the reason why immigration is a perennial quandary for us is that America is a wonderful place to be.


American is a proud thing to be.

It's not politically correct to say it. The conventional wisdom these days is that America is a racist country founded by racists for the purposes of racism. It's as fashionable in a particular type of social circle to dwell obsessively on our nation's failures as it is, in other circles, to ignore them.

UND ROTC cadets Jack Halstead, left, and Maxim Ficarella unfurl the US flag displayed on 13 motorcycles representing soldiers who were killed in the recent Afghanistan attack. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

And yet, every year, more than a million immigrants come to our country. It may surprise you, given the popularity of the aforementioned conventional wisdom, but America is consistently the world leader when it comes to accepting immigrants and refugees.

Uncountable thousands come illegally, too, every year.

Our struggles to find the right sort of policies to handle those influxes of humanity aside, there's a reason so many want to come here.

America is exceptional.


For many, being American, or even just having the chance to live in America, is a dream come true.

I'm glad North Dakota will be able to do our part to help with the disaster in Afghanistan. I wish we had been successful in making their home country a place they could stay, but it's gratifying, in lieu of that, to share our home with them. I hope they find our home to their liking. I hope they choose to stay here and become Americans officially.

Whatever the future holds for them, I hope America, for them, lives up to its promise.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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