Pushback Continues in Vermont Against Trump Order Halting Refugees

100 refugees, mostly from Syria, were expected to settle in Rutland before the White House order came down

Many people in Vermont continue expressing deep disappointment with President Donald Trump's recent executive order which, among other changes, indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

Before the order came down, the city of Rutland was in the process of welcoming 100 refugees from Syria and Iraq this year, with more expected in future years.

Those refugees have undergone close scrutiny through a lengthy and rigorous U.S. vetting process conducted overseas, leaders at Vermont Refugee Resettlement have said.

The volunteer group Rutland Welcomes had organized the collection of necessity kits to help those refugees start new lives in Vermont. The kits consisted of everything from mops to alarm clocks.

But now, following President Trump's signature, those kits will remain in storage until the best use for them can be determined.

Jennie Gartner, a volunteer with Rutland Welcomes, said she remains hopeful that national policy may change, and refugee resettlement can resume in Rutland.

"It's so incredibly important that we can say, wow, these are real families," Gartner said on Monday. "These are families who need our help, these are families who very well could die if we don't do something."

Gartner was part of a large crowd in Rutland that protested the executive order this weekend.

"We have to be hopeful," Gartner said. "We have to hope that at a certain point, the president and his administration will say, 'OK, the security is OK, and we can let these people in,' because you can't keep the borders of America closed forever--it's just absolutely ridiculous."

President Trump reaffirmed his position that a halt on refugees from Syria and other nations is an important part of a series of reforms that he sees as critical to national security.

Trump tweeted Monday, "There's nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter our country."

However, multiple opponents to the order have argued that it could actually make the country less secure, by making the United States appear to enemies like ISIS to be anti-Muslim.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said Monday at a luncheon hosted by the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce that he and his cabinet are looking for ways to push back against the White House.

"I think this infringes upon our constitutional rights," Scott said in his speech. "I truly believe, to build a strong, vibrant economy, we need peaceful families from all walks of life."

Scott later added, "I don't believe that federal funding should be used as a tool to force us into anything."

The Vermont Mayors Coalition said it appreciated Gov. Scott standing up for human rights.

The coalition, made up of the mayors of Rutland, Burlington, Winooski, St. Albans, Barre, Montpelier, Newport, and Vergennes, called on President Trump to rescind his order.

"The United States, the State of Vermont, and our towns and cities have a long and proud history of welcoming immigrants and refugees from all cultures and backgrounds, and we believe we are a better country and State for it," the Vermont Mayors Coalition said in a statement Monday. "Friday’s Executive Order stands in stark contrast to that history, and should not be allowed to stand."

Congressman Peter Welch met last week with two Syrian refugee families who moved to Rutland before the executive order came down.

Monday, the Democrat said he hopes to blunt the impacts of the order, looking for support for legislation that could perhaps de-fund its implementation.

"People of Vermont are going to stand up for the rights and opportunities of all people, regardless of their race, regardless of their religion," Rep. Welch said.

Welch further described Trump's order as "just wrong."

Also Monday, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan joined a coalition of attorneys general from across the country who condemned Trump's executive order.

Contact Us