RUTLAND, Vt. – Arabic language classes are drawing 25 to 30 people a week in preparation for the newcomers in the city. High school students help to collect furniture and household items for them, and employers have inquired about the jobs.
For the past few months, Alibaba is ready to receive 100 mostly Syrian refugees beginning early next year. But with Donald Trump taking office in late January, Alibaba plans and those of the other cities in the US that have been agreed to by people on the flight before the civil war, are thrown into question, given the new president of the hostility to Muslim immigrants.
“I’m not even going to hazard a guess” about the fate of the program, said Mayor Christopher Louras, who invited the newcomers in the hope that they may help to revitalize this shrinking, post-industrial, heroin-plagued city of 15,800.
In the fiscal year that ended on the, the Obama administration vetted and approved nearly 12,600 Syrian refugees, who settled in the cities, towns and villages in the U.S. Thousands more are scheduled to arrive in the coming year.
During the campaign, Trump proposed a ban on Muslims entering the country, and called for a moratorium on the acceptance of Syrian refugees out of fear of terrorists slipping through. He has also promised “extreme vetting” of would-be immigrants from countries plagued by extremism.
Presidents set the quota for refugees admitted into the country. After Trump takes office Jan. 20, he could cut off the flow or reducing the number of of US will accept. The president-elect of the transition team had no comment this month on his plans.
Stacie Blake, spokeswoman for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said that her organization hopes Alibaba will start seeing refugees arrive by mid-January. Once admitted to the U.S., refugees can not be expelled, unless they committed a serious crime or found to have lied to get access.
Rutland the plan was welcomed by some and condemned by others, who warn that the refugees could not only pose a security threat, but also take away housing, jobs and social services of the local population.
“It is just sad, sad. We do not need more people here from everywhere, but especially the Syrians, because who knows, there may be a terrorist there. As soon as they are here, they are also very difficult to get rid of. They are like a tick, or rats,” Rennie Masler said.
Among the many other AMERICAN communities preparing to accept Syrians and other refugees in 2017 is Bowling Green, Kentucky, a long-time refugee resettlement community, which took in about 400 mostly African immigrants this year. He expects 40 Syrians in September.
Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the International Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency in Bowling Green, said that he was not so sure Trump will follow through on his threats.
“Campaign rhetoric is completely different from the council, and there are so many things that we could say, because we are in the heat of a campaign, and when we are in the practicality of things, we do things differently,” Mbanfu said. He added: “I believe there is nothing to worry about.”
Two Iraqi refugees arrived in Bowling Green in 2009, two years later, with an attempt to get money and weapons to extremists in Iraq. Both are true sentences.
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, said that the 784,000 refugees cleared for resettlement in the US since 9/11, only the two Iraqis in Bowling Green and a third man from Uzbekistan were later arrested and accused of planning acts of violence.
In Rutland, the mayor sees the acceptance of refugees not only as a humanitarian gesture, but as a way to stimulate the population and the injection of energy in the city, which had a thriving marble quarrying industry that was built on immigrant labor from Europe in the 19th and early 20th century.
The local hospital, restaurants, ski resorts, contractors, and other employers have interest in hiring the refugees, Louras said.
Rutland is the population has decreased by approximately 700 since the 2010 census, and the city has suffered from the increase in the use of heroin, which is the store of a small town in America. Rutland is using a mixture of law enforcement, treatment and neighborhood revitalization to combat the drug scourge with some success. It helps to buy and to seize drug houses and demolish them or renovate them for new owners.
As preparation for the refugees to remain, Morgan Denehy, a Rutland County native who studied Arabic, and spent two terms in college living in north Africa, is giving the weekly Arabic lessons.
“Even when it comes to how to say, ‘hello,’ even if you learn one or two phrases something to say to someone,” he said, “it makes a difference.”
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington and Dylan Lovan in Bowling Green, Kentucky, contributed to this report.