By Alan J. Keays, VTDigger
Four more Syrian refugee families are set to come to Rutland by the end of September.
They will join two other Syrian refugee families who arrived in the city at the beginning of the year, before President Donald Trump issued an executive order that suspended the program for 120 days and reduced the overall number of refugees allowed into the country.
At that time, then-Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras suggested that those two Syrian refugee families might be the last to resettle in the city.
Alderman Christopher Ettori said Wednesday evening, April 12, that a couple of weeks ago he met with Amila Merdzanovic, Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program director. Four refugee families that have been cleared by federal officials will be resettling in Rutland before the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30, Merdzanovic told him.
Ettori said in light of Louras’ defeat on Town Meeting Day to David Allaire, a longtime city aldermen in the race for mayor, he wanted to meet with Merdzanovic to talk about the status and future of the refugee resettlement program in Rutland.
Louras had been a strong supporter of the refugee resettlement program, while Allaire had opposed it.
“I just wanted to meet with her and talk about Rutland, about where we were and what was going on,” Ettori said of his reasoning for meeting with Merdzanovic.
He said he was excited to hear from her that more refugee families would be resettling in Rutland. “It brings new people here, it brings diversity,” Ettori said.
Alderman William Notte said Wednesday night he saw news of the additional Syrian refugee families coming to Rutland on social media.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet the two families that have moved here so far,” he said. “I’m absolutely delighted that we’ll be able to give this opportunity to additional families and welcome them into our community.”
Notte said he thought the future of the refugee resettlement program in Rutland was in peril.
“I was very much concerned,” he said. “With the Trump administration’s ability to really roll back the numbers of overall refugees taken into the country I thought it was very possible that Rutland wouldn’t be able to have any future refugees resettlement.”