While many cities and states around the U.S. are attempting to close their doors to Syrian refugees, citizens of Rutland, VT are moving in the opposite spirit. Local Arabic classes are drawing 25 to 30 people a week, employers such as ski resorts and the local hospital are looking to hire refugees, and donations are being collected throughout the city. U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) hopes to open another resettlement location in Rutland, where around 100 Syrian refugees would likely resettle. According to Rutland’s mayor, this would significantly boost the economy and energy of the city.
However, not everyone is excited about the prospect of Syrian neighbors. “It’s just sad, sad. We don’t need any more people here, from anyplace, but especially the Syrians, because who knows, there could be one terrorist in there. Once they’re here, they’re hard to get rid of. They’re like a tick, or rats,” one Rutland resident said.
Rutland’s wary resident is not alone in their opinion. Campaign rhetoric has fueled a nationwide outcry against resettlement as many continue to live in fear. While the U.S. waits to discover the effects of a Trump administration on the U.S. resettlement program, Rutland citizens remain hopeful that Syrian refugees will be permitted to resettle in their city. Many are aware of all of the potential benefits that refugees bring to an area, and look forward to an opportunity to welcome and support new neighbors. However, the reality is that the President has significant control over the resettlement program, and can reduce numbers, block refugees from certain geographical regions, or pause the program altogether.
Stacie Blake, spokeswoman for USCRI, said her organization hopes Rutland will start seeing the refugees arrive by mid-January. Once admitted to the U.S., refugees cannot be expelled unless they have committed a serious crime or are found to have lied to gain entry.
Photo Credit © Donna Wilkins Photography, “City of Rutland, VT in the fall.”