Rutland meeting highlights city’s division over welcoming Syrian refugees

RUTLAND, Vt. (NEWS10) – The city of Rutland continues to debate over welcoming Syrian refugees to the area.

Rutland community members filled the meeting room Tuesday night. Some sat on the floor, and some watched from outside the hall. But all of them wanted their questions answered on the mayor’s resettlement announcement.

One man took his concerns to the podium and said public health should be taken into consideration once the refugees arrive.

“Of the 109 refugees that’s been resettled in Vermont from 2013 to 2016, 35 percent – or 318 – have been diagnosed with tuberculosis,” Timothy Cook said.

Following the public comment, a motion was made to put the question of refugee resettlement to a public vote. But the Board of Aldermen voted 6 to 4 where the motion failed.

Alderman Matt Bloomer then read aloud his letter to the U.S. Department of State that explained why he does not support the resettlement. But Alderman Christopher Ettori responded back with a disagreement.

“You know, we don’t get enough through our troubles by being restricted and guarded and not letting people in,” Ettori said.

A comment from Alderman Sharon Davis followed. She said Rutland needs a foundation to work off of.

“There’s a portion of the refugee federal that states that they need to work with local government,” she said. “That hasn’t happened.”

Several Rutland community members agree. Many said they’re concerned for their safety and well-being.

“If they wanna come, that’s one thing, but bringing them over here, you know what they’re used to,” Bryan Henry said.

“It doesn’t seem fair,” Courtney Martin said. “Like, let’s help the people that are here as opposed to bringing in more people and helping them. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Despite the public meeting, it is up to the U.S. Department of State to decide whether Rutland will be welcoming refugees or not. The decision should be made by mid-July.

 

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