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Rutland mayor says he supports Afghan refugee resettlement

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 7:13 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Up to 100 Afghan refugees may resettle in Vermont, and Rutland is named as an official refugee resettlement community. But back in 2016, the welcoming of Syrian refugees became contentious. Olivia Lyons spoke with Rutland Mayor David Allaire to see how he’s approaching the issue this time.

“If we are going to have any conversations moving ahead with regards to settlement down here, I want to do it out in the open,” said Rutland Mayor David Allaire.

In 2016, Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras announced the city would resettle Syrian refugees. The decision was not made with public input and became a controversial issue in the community. Louras ended up losing to Allaire in the next election. Some people at the time thought Allaire was against the resettlement, but the mayor says that is false. “The way it was handled -- conversation was held mostly behind closed doors and it was a done deal when it was made to the public, and that is what I was against. I was against the process,” he said.

This time, Allaire is using full transparency. He says he spoke with the refugee resettlement group for the first time on Friday and no decisions have been made. The topic will be also be discussed at the Board of Aldermen Meeting next Tuesday when a director from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants will be present.

Allaire says the city does not need to vote on this, but to be informed. “We are an open and welcoming community. We want to help those, especially folks who have helped us,” he said.

People we spoke to in downtown Rutland Friday afternoon see this as a positive step for the city. “Wonderful. We need to have the diversity and their culture,” said Tim Clain of Proctor.

Even some who did not support the Syrian resettlement are in favor this time.”Because of the issues that were going on at that time politically. I just didn’t think it was a good idea. But these people who are coming here are coming here because they helped us over there. So, it is very important and I think we should help them,” said Daniel Rabtoy, a local resident.

Allaire says that under the previous circumstances he did not think the program would be successful. But four years later he says the Syrian refugees have blended into the community well. “They are happy. I believe several have bought their own home. I think they are all working and earning their own way,” he said.

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