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Rutland Mayor Fears End to Syrian Refugee Resettlement

Associated Press
Published: 1/26/2017 12:16:12 AM
Modified: 1/26/2017 12:16:18 AM

Montpelier — The mayor of Rutland — a city that had been expecting up to 100 refugees from Syria and Iraq — said he fears a policy being considered by President Donald Trump would halt refugee resettlement in the city.

Trump is proposing to reduce the maximum number of refugees by more than half, to 50,000, for the budget year ending in September. He’s expected to suspend the U.S. refugee program for four months and indefinitely bar those fleeing war-torn Syria.

“That could very well mean the end of refugee resettlement for the city of Rutland,” where two Syrian refugee families recently arrived, Mayor Christopher Louras said.

“The human tragedy is terrible,” said Lavinia Limon, president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “The cruelty of doing that to people is really, really bad.”

On the same day, Vermont’s Democratic attorney general announced he formed a task force to advise his office on the scope of its authority on immigration matters amid uncertainty about the federal government’s plans for refugees.

T.J. Donovan made the announcement at a Statehouse news conference as Trump was said to be reviewing proposals that would restrict the flow of refugees to the United States. It also came as Vermont begins to welcome Syrian refugee families into the state.

It’s unclear what the state could do, if anything, if Trump issues an executive order that would halt Syrian refugees from coming to Vermont, Donovan said.

“We need to do our homework on this before we make promises, before we comment and give people a false sense of security about what may or may not happen,” he said. “Let’s get the facts and let’s figure out what role we have in an area that is mostly federal jurisdiction.”

Some communities in Vermont also want to become sanctuary cities and adopt policies that would protect immigrants in the country illegally.

Donovan said he has concerns about sanctuary cities because there’s not a legal status for such communities.

Trump on Wednesday also said cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities would be stripped of some federal grant money.

The task force of about a dozen people also will discuss sanctuary cities. It will include lawyer Faisal Gill and former state Rep. Kesha Ram.

“The Attorney General’s Office is going to need help first digesting what’s going to be coming our way very quickly and then understanding what it means for Vermonters,” Ram said.

Donovan said he wants the information as soon as possible.

“Time is of the essence,” he said.

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