Rutland Mayor: First Two Resettled Syrian Families 'Will Probably Be The Last'
Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras says an executive order expected from President Donald Trump later this week would quash plans to resettle 100 Syrian refugees in the city.
“We certainly recognize that the first two families who we welcomed will probably be the last two families," the mayor says.
Those first two families arrived last week in Rutland, having fled Syria and lived as refugees in Turkey before being approved by the U.S. State Department to be resettled here.
Louras set in motion a plan to have Rutland designated as a resettlement city in order to receive Syrian refugees, a plan that was controversial in the city.
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The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program set up offices and staff in Rutland specifically to support the hundred or so Syrian refugees who were expected there over the course of the year.
"I do not see how Rutland can continue as a refugee resettlement site given the fact that overall numbers are going to decline," says Louras.
He's referring to an executive order reportedly coming from Trump later this week that will limit the number of refugees coming to the United States over the next year, and possibly halt all immigration from Syria. Louras called the signing of the executive order “a bad day for America.”
Stacie Blake, a spokesperson for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the parent agency of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, says USCRI is hearing that the executive order could be signed on Thursday.
"If what we're hearing is true, yes, that would be a full stop to the refugee program nationally," Blake told VPR while boarding a flight to Washington, D.C., at the Burlington airport.
White House confirmation is still pending, but Blake says the order appears to put a 120-day pause on the refugee program, and puts an accompanying halt in the resettlement of refugees from Syria.
A draft of the executive order that circulated online Wednesday afternoon included a provision that would allow refugees who are already in the "pipeline" for resettlement in the U.S. to continue being processed.
Blake says USCRI doesn't have a clear understanding of how that's defined.
"You know, the quote 'pipeline' is two years long — that's how long it takes" for refugees to go through the required security and background checks before arriving in the U.S. for resettlement, Blake says. "It's unclear — do you mean people who have passed every step? People who have their tickets booked? People who are approved but don't have a ticket yet?"
The U.S. refugee program was put in place in 1980.
This story will be updated.