About 100 Syrian refugees are being placed in a small city in Vermont, the home of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, and they are not getting an altogether warm welcome.
In fact, when some residents of Rutland, Vermont, found out about the secretly negotiated deal to seed their community with migrants from a Middle Eastern hotbed of Sunni radicalism, they were livid.
They packed a local library for an “informational” meeting Thursday night. At least 20 of them stood outside with protest signs, demanding that their mayor explain why he negotiated the entire deal with the federal resettlement contractors behind closed doors and outside the purview of public scrutiny.
Mayor Chris Louras simply “announced” on April 26 that 100 Syrians were being “welcomed” into the city after it was a done deal.
Even the Boston Globe acknowledged the Rutland refugee placement was “developed in near-secrecy” by the mayor and the government contractor.
The U.S. government is desperately looking for new locales to send the Syrians as it ramps up its “surge” of more than 350 Syrian arrivals per week in an effort to meet President Obama’s goal of 10,000 Syrians resettled by Oct. 1.
And in each new town that gets told, not asked, that Syrians are coming, the response has been divisive, with some locals saying they welcome the foreign “diversity” and others saying they have questions and fears.
Watch video of local TV station interviewing upset residents of Rutland, Vermont, Thursday night?
Another 75 refugees are headed to small communities in northern Nevada, it was reported by KUNR, an NPR affiliated radio station.
Northern Nevada International Center, which operates on the campus of the University of Nevada at Reno, has been given the green light to start a refugee resettlement program. Carina Black, the group’s director, told KUNR the group’s application to become an official resettlement contractor was approved in February, meaning the plan has been in the works since at least late last year. But the local residents are only now finding out about it.
“Stakeholders” from health care, education, employment and faith communities have been “coming forward and showing a huge interest in helping us,” Black said. “So we’re still basically conducting a lot of training … and getting ready for this new endeavor.”
Black said her organization will resettle up to 75 refugees over the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Black did not return calls to her office Friday by WND seeking more information.
What the NPR affiliate failed to report is that once a resettlement contractor opens an office in a community, it never closes. If the pattern of other communities holds true, they start with 75 refugees the first year, followed by at least that many next year, and the next, and the next.
Rutland is a city of a little over 16,000 people in a liberal state that has never received refugees before, let alone from Syria. It doesn’t have a single mosque.
The Boston Globe reports, “[T]he resettlement would begin in October and gradually send Rutland more Syrian refugees than are currently living anywhere else in New England. The influx would be a jolt of instant cultural diversity for Rutland, where there are no mosques and no other Syrian immigrants.”
That’s all about to change. Fully 98 percent of the 4,019 Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. since January 2012 have been Sunni Muslim.
And many of the residents aren’t happy.
“Something like relocating 100 refugees, especially from a very tough part of the world, war-torn Syria, is something you would just logically think you would have a discussion about,” David O’Brien, a Rutland resident, told local TV station MyChampionValley.com.
Another resident, Matt Howland, said the city “is not just going to roll over and just take this without asking hard questions, without holding people accountable and making people answer the questions and put forth a plan, and let people know what’s going on.”
Bill Jalbert, another resident, said he was not personally against helping Syrian refugees in theory, but only after local people in need were helped.
“A lot of people are not against helping the refugees. I’m not personally against helping the refugees, I just think we have a lot of people in this state we need to help before we help the refugees,” he said.
The protesters stood outside the library with signs that read “Veterans Before Refugees,” “What’s the Rush?” “Fix Rutland First,” and “What’s the Cost?” Another sign, painted red, simply read “City of Rutland” and included the soviet emblem of a hammer and sickle.
U.N. selects 95 percent of U.S. refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees selects 95 percent of the refugees sent to the United States, a policy that has been in effect since at least the early 1990s.
Refugees particularly from Syria have caused a huge uproar since the jihadist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November, when it was discovered that two of the eight ISIS attackers carried Syrian passports and entered Europe as “refugees.”
More than two dozen mostly Republican governors sent notices to the Obama administration that they did not wish to welcome any of the 10,000 Syrian Muslims he planned to bring to the U.S. this year until they could be guaranteed that a fail-safe vetting process had been implemented.
Trump softens stance on Muslim immigration
Presidential contender Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S., but he softened that stance this week saying his Muslim ban was “just a suggestion.”
“We have a serious problem, and its a temporary ban – It hasn’t been called for yet, nobody’s done it, this is just a suggestion until we find out what’s going on,” he told Fox News Radio.
Michigan is slated to receive more Syrians than any other state and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who had been cooperative with Obama’s plans to resettle 5,000 in his state, changed his mind after the Paris attacks. The attacks on Brussels, Belgium, in March of this year only further heightened the public resistance, but Obama said he didn’t need the approval of states or localities and would continue resettling refugees from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and other jihadist strongholds.
Pitting Muslims against persecuted Christians in Michigan
In some Michigan communities, such as Troy and Sterling Heights, Muslim refugees are being placed right next to Christian immigrant communities who escaped Muslim persecution in Iraq and Egypt.
“We have Coptic Christians in Troy (from Egypt) who are very, very tense,” said Dick Manasseri, an activist fighting the “surge” of Syrian refugees into Michigan. “They were specifically warned by law enforcement to upgrade security on their churches.”
WND was able to confirm that one of the churches concerned is the Coptic Christian Church in Troy.
The same fears are brewing among Iraqi Chaldean Christians living in Sterling Heights. They came to America to escape Muslim persecution and now their government is importing their persecutors to live side-by-side with them in adjacent communities. A large mosque is planned adjacent to a Chaldean neighborhood in Sterling Heights.
Regardless of where they are coming from, finding housing and jobs for 85,000 poorly educated refugees – the total number from all countries slated to arrive in fiscal 2016 – is no small challenge.
That’s why the federal government is broadening its search for places to send the refugees, and putting them in smaller towns like Rutland.
Mayor conspires with feds to secretly resettle Muslims
Months-long discussions about whether to invite the Syrians to Rutland were limited to the mayor, a small circle of city and business leaders, and a nonprofit resettlement agency, the Globe reported. The president of the local city council reportedly knew about the secret plan but did not tell his colleagues on the board until a day before Louras announced the plans at an April 26 press conference.
“There was no benefit to anyone to spread the knowledge,” William Notte, the council president, told the Globe.
Louras made no apologies for shutting the public out of the process. If the proposal had been floated earlier, the mayor told the Globe, the debate would have become “about them” — meaning the Syrians, their culture and possible links to terrorism — instead of whether the city had the means to accommodate the refugees.
According to city records obtained by local TV stations 22 and 44 at MyChamplainValley.com, a public discussion was considered in Rutland but city authorities decided against it.
In an April 14 email to Mayor Louras, resettlement contractor Amilia Merdzanovic wrote, “[I]f we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork, anti-immigrant … anti-anything.”
Local TV reporter Rene Thibault asked: “Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?”
“I think we did the right thing, in this work, you’re going to offend people, whether you include them or not include them, you’re going to offend them, so sometimes you just have to make that hard decision,” responded Merdzanovic.
The email went on to suggest that if a meeting were to be held, it should be controlled, and include groups like the United Way and area churches. But both United way and Rutland area church leaders told us they welcome the refugees, but were not contacted to be part of a discussion during the planning process.
Now that the plan is out in the open, public sentiment “appears solidly positive,” the Globe reports. “At a recent hearing at City Hall, supporters outnumbered opponents, 2 to 1.”