…save for the loud anti-resettlement voices that have sprung up in Rutland. A group called Rutland First has organized to protest the news that refugees will be their new Rutland neighbors in 2017. In response, another group called Rutland Welcomes formed to support and advocate for refugees coming to the city.
Amila Merdzanovic, a former refugee who now serves as director for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, was disturbed at the negative responses she heard about refugee resettlement in Rutland. In her 20 years in Vermont, she had never seen such a visceral response to refugees.
“Maybe I’m just a romantic optimist, but I truly believe in my heart that Rutland will be wonderful.… I really think [the anti-refugee movement] has a lot to do with this phenomenon that I hope will disappear in the next couple days,” Merdzanovic stated, on November 7th.
Unfortunately, the election results only empowered the anti-resettlement voices. But despite push-back, Rutland continues to move forward in preparation to welcome refugees. In January 2017, Rutland will receive 100 refugees, most likely Syrians.
Many Rutland leaders believe that refugees will be a huge benefit to the city. The economy used to be a manufacturing hub, bustling with hardworking Irish immigrants seeking a better life in the United States. Today, the city struggles to attract new jobs and new residents, and the population continues to decline. Refugees will be able to fill many important entry-level jobs in locations such as the local hospital. There are plenty of options for safe, affordable housing, and the city’s 96% white population could certainly benefit from other rich, cultural influences.
Photo Credit © Rutland Welcomes