The citizens of Rutland, VT who have expressed anger at their mayor for secretly working with a federal refugee resettlement contractor to bring 100 Syrians to the small city, have been busy. They garnered enough signatures on a petition to put the issue on the ballot, but the Mayor and Board of Alderman will have the final say (this Tuesday) on whether it can be put before the voters.
(Of course the feds can shove the refugees down their throats anyway, but that is besides the point!)
Not unlike the issue surrounding resettlement of refugees in Twin Falls, Idaho where the controversy has been swirling for years (by the way, it is the same federal contractor making $$$ on a per head basis in Vermont and Idaho—US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants), the citizens in both places are demanding full public debate on the “plans” for the new (Rutland) or continued (Twin Falls) resettlement of third worlders to their communities.
But, therein lies the rub, the feds and their contractors have no plans as such. In Athens, GA in 2014 the Democratic Mayor said give me a plan—-where will the refugees work, and live? Does Athens have adequate subsidized housing, can our schools handle large numbers of illiterate children? How about our health department, is it ready for communicable diseases and parasites not often seen in American cities?
In other words, she was asking for the feds and the contractor to essentially prepare an economic and social impact statement before giving a green light to the arrival of refugees.
I don’t know if things have changed since I learned this past April that Athens still has no resettlement office. Why? My guess is that the US State Department and the Office of Refugee Resettlement(in HHS) don’t want to set a precedent and prepare a plan (with public hearings etc.) because secrecy has worked so well for the last 30 plus years to slip refugees into unsuspecting towns, why change anything now!
A vote on refugees would screw-up the “positive narrative about our county.”
Then see where one Alderman (Matt Bloomer a Rutland Young Professional) says he plans to vote against placing a referendum on the ballot, here. His biggest fear isn’t who might come into Rutland, what poverty or diseases they might bring in, whether the town could afford the costs necessary to educate the refugee children, whether there are security worries or increased crime, etc.
He is worried that, by simply voting, Rutland might get a bad reputation!
People from around the state and country will be left with the perception that we are a closed and unfeeling community, rather than the welcoming and compassionate community that we actually are.
These misconceptions would be spread at a time when many dedicated people have worked hard to build positive momentum for our community. They would be spread at a time when we’ve recognized the need to proactively recruit people and businesses in order to sustain the size of our community and the quality of life we enjoy. Rutland County legislators from both sides of the aisle have told us that these misconceptions would set back their successful efforts in creating a positive narrative in Montpelier about our county.
Readers ask me all the time what can they do to stop this. You can be sure Washington isn’t going to help you. Besides what you are already doing—demanding transparency and thoughtful deliberation—I’ve come to the conclusion that as much as you don’t want to do it, you will have to change your local elected officials, maybe run for public office yourself. Even if you can’t win the first time, you will help raise the issue before voters.
Endnote: Has USCRI ever given the Mayor and Aldermen the R & P Abstract which they surely prepared for the US State Department? Just wondering! (See the one they prepared for Reno, here. There is one for Rutland!).