President Donald Trump’s reported plan to stop admitting Syrians to the United States would prevent more refugees from moving to Rutland and keep the city from becoming a resettlement hub, Mayor Christopher Louras told Seven Days.
Last week, two Syrian families arrived in Rutland from a Jordanian refugee camp, after months of heated debate in the city. They were to be the first of an expected 25 families.
But Louras, who has staked his mayoral legacy on his plan to make Rutland a refugee resettlement hub, said the plan appears to be dead after multiple media outlets reported that Trump plans to sign an executive order to stop accepting refugees from Syria. The Associated Press reported that he further intends to temporarily suspend immigration from several other predominantly-Muslim countries.
“I think that these first two families are the only two families,” Louras said. Barring some unexpected development, he continued, “I’d say it’s the end of refugee resettlement for Rutland. While not a shock, it certainly is just as much a kick in the gut as if it had been a surprise.”
Rutland had applied to federal authorities to become Vermont’s newest refugee hub, joining Burlington and Winooski. The application, Louras said, was for hosting refugees from Syria and Iraq, another country reported to be on Trump’s list.
Around 100 Syrian refugees had been expected to move to the city in the coming months.
“Clearly they’re not coming in the short or long term,” Louras said. “Rutland as a new resettlement site will be the first on the chopping block. It’s a tragedy from a humanitarian perspective because there are still people fleeing for their lives and now they’ve got no place to go.”
Other communities that host refugees could be affected by Trump’s plan, Louras noted. The president, according to reports, proposes to cap all refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2017 at 50,000 — fewer than half the 110,000 proposed by former president Barack Obama.
The mayor has been heavily criticized by some people who have engaged in nativist rhetoric. He acknowledged that the two families who made it to Rutland, expecting to be joined by a small cadre of their countrymen, may now wish to relocate elsewhere in the U.S.
“It’s an issue that they are going to have to deal with among all the other traumas they’ve had to deal with,” Louras said. “I don’t know what the future holds for these two families, though our community is still absolutely committed to embracing them as neighbors.”