PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon State Sen. Kayse Jama said he understands the refugee experience firsthand.

“Anyone who is fleeing war has to be welcomed because I was one of them,” Jama said Friday evening at Gateway Discovery Park. “As a former refugee from Somalia, I understand the challenges those community members are facing.”

Oregon State Sen. Kayse Jama, September 10, 2021 (KOIN)

The City of Portland kicked off Welcoming Week activities to show support for immigrants and refugees in the community. City and state leaders said Oregon will likely be welcoming refugees from Afghanistan in the near future.

Regardless of how many arrive, leaders in the Portland area said they want them to know they are welcome here.

Jama said his office and others are working to get ready for a new wave of Afghan refugees.

Portland Welcoming Week schedule of events through September 19

“We are hearing numbers between 300 to 400 members of Afghan refugees who may arrive in Oregon,” he said. “But we are preparing ourselves.”

Lee Po Cha, the executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, said it will also play a special role in helping those refugees once they arrive.

Lee Po Cha, the executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, September 10, 2021 (KOIN)

“As a former refugee I’m just so excited we have such an event,” he said. “IRCO will be one of the agencies that will be serving many of the Afghan refugees that will be coming from the state of Oregon. For the last few weeks, that’s all we’ve been talking about so at the local level, we are very ready, very ready for this population.”

City Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Carmen Rubio were also at the event. Hardesty said no matter what’s happening nationally, Portland is a city of love.

“Whether it’s one or 1000 or 10,000 we will welcome them and we will find a place for them to incorporate them in our community,” Hardesty said. “We are just really here to say thank you and you are welcome here.”