'Rutland Welcomes' Applauds News That More Refugees Are Expected | Off Message

'Rutland Welcomes' Applauds News That More Refugees Are Expected


A rally supporting refugee resettlement in Rutland on January 28 - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • A rally supporting refugee resettlement in Rutland on January 28
More Syrian families are expected to arrive in Rutland, a member of the local grassroots refugee resettlement group told Seven Days on Wednesday evening.

"We are excited," said Hunter Berryhill, a member of the Rutland Welcomes steering committee and a teacher at Rutland High School.

The group met with Amila Merdzanovic, director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, a couple of weeks ago and received the news, he said.

"We were never told it was a secret," Berryhill added. "[But] we hadn't been necessarily broadcasting it [and we were] waiting for them to publicize it."

Nina Keck at Vermont Public Radio first reported the news Wednesday. The refugee resettlement agency could not be reached for comment.

"It's really exciting that Rutland will be welcoming additional families this coming summer, especially after this tumultuous political climate with the current administration," Berryhill said.

Last September, officials approved Rutland as a new refugee resettlement site and 100 Syrians and Iraqis were expected to arrive. The first two families arrived in mid-January. However, less than two weeks later, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that suspended refugee resettlement in the U.S for 120 days. Additionally, Syrian refugees were indefinitely barred from entering the country. Trump on March 6 signed a new executive order that lifted that indefinite block on Syrian refugees.

Berryhill said he was unsure if the new arrivals would stay with host families, an arrangement the first refugees used. The resettlement agency deals with the "nuts and bolts," he explained.

Former mayor Chris Louras, who staked his political career on the resettlement program and lost his reelection bid in March, declined an interview request.

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