The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) Vermont announced in a Facebook post Tuesday, Feb. 15 that the first group of Afghan refugees has arrived in Rutland.
“USCRI Vermont is excited about the first group of Afghan allies starting their new life in Rutland, Vermont!” the post began. “We’d like thank our partners and supporters who are helping our new Afghan neighbors resettle in the Rutland region. Green Mountain Power has generously offered temporary office space to USCRI at their Energy Innovation Center until a permanent office is located. With a conference room, the latest technology, and lots of meeting space, USCRI staff are excited to be located in the heart of downtown. The Rutland community has expressed support for refugee resettlement for many years, and everyone from the Mayor, members of the Board of Alderman and Rutland school officials to the director of Community Health Services and the manager of the local food co-op have expressed their support and welcome to our new neighbors.
“The Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region has been a critical partner for establishing and supporting USCRI’s new sub-office,” the post continued. “We at USCRI Vermont are thrilled to be able to offer our new arrivals so many opportunities to begin to create financial stability in their new hometowns for themselves and their families.
Working with volunteers from Rutland Welcomes, USCRI Vermont’s Rutland sub-office will be well poised to help new Afghan arrivals to plant roots and become members of a community that is excited to welcome them here.”
Support for the Afghan refugees contrasts with the strong opposition to resettlement of Syrian refugees in Rutland in 2016.
“I hope that as a community we’ve gained perspective on what it means to invite refugees into our community,” said Matt Whitcomb, president of the Rutland Board of Aldermen.
Whitcomb said he thinks that attitudes toward refugees may have shifted because many Afghans worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “As things deteriorated, we really did owe them the option to come here and to start a new life,” he said.
Fred Thys/VTDigger contributed to this report.