Meanwhile, my safe little bubble stuck in time paradise just got its own major puncture wound. The Mayor of the nearby small city of 16,000 (making it one of the largest cities in VT) just announced he made arrangements for about 100 Syrian refugees to come starting in October, roughly one family every two weeks for a year, and then more in subsequent years. Up until now there was only one community in VT that has hosted refugees. Now there will be two. He did not consult with anybody in town but rather blindsided everyone. I don’t live in that city but this will eventually impact the entire county.
If organized protests come about I will join them. Meanwhile I sent this to the Mayor last evening.
This is to express my dismay at your unilateral decision to change the face of Rutland by agreeing to bring the Syrians into Rutland with no community input. You are the Mayor, not the King. It is not your city alone, nor is Rutland County as a whole yours, and the entire County will be impacted eventually. If this is such a great idea it would have withstood seeking input from the larger community. My guess is that you knew it wouldn’t and that is why you did it all in secret.
It is disingenuous of you to compare the Syrians to the waves of immigrants of long ago such as the Greeks and Italians. Those groups came here to become Americans and did so by virtue of their own hard work and sacrifice. The experience to date of Muslim refugee and immigrant groups resettled in the US is that they rarely assimilate but rather expect their new communities to change in ways that reflect the culture that they have fled from. Will the schools have to change their menu’s so as not to offend Islamic dietary laws? Will schools be expected to provide prayer rooms and alter schedules to accommodate the Syrian children? Will the Syrians embrace the Vermont culture of being accepting and supportive of the LGBT community? Of women’s rights? Of the generations old Jewish community in VT? Will the hospital have to change their staffing mix to accommodate Muslim same gender care demands? Who will pay for the translators the hospital may need to hire? The translators the courts may need to hire? The Rutland City Police and Rutland County Sheriffs? Are the Feds going to give them all grants for this? Many will eventually learn English, but not all, and on day one none of them will speak English. How will these things be handled until they are English proficient? You talk of them bringing skills and experience but then the newspaper articles talk about there being lots of entry level jobs. If all they are qualified for are entry level jobs then we are looking at a semi-permanent reliance upon entitlements in some form or other. That is not what I call a positive addition to the community. The Feds may be picking up the tab for a period of time but they are not guaranteeing that they will pick up the tab for however long it is these people need public support. A Muslim community in Rutland will mean a mosque is coming too. Will the neighborhood the eventual mosque will be in have to suffer those loud calls to prayer multiple times per day? Will their religious freedom trump the rights of those who presently live in a quiet neighborhood? Surely you knew that all of the kinds of questions and comments I am making would have come up in a public discussion and that is likely why you chose to ignore the people you are supposed to be representing.
On the matter of these people being thoroughly vetted, the Feds said the female shooter in San Bernadino was thoroughly vetted too. It is all but impossible to vet anyone coming out of Syria given there is not a functioning govt in Syria with which to run background checks. That someone doesn’t show up on an international terrorist list and can talk a good game in an interview hardly constitutes a thorough vetting. Again, the public was not allowed to ask questions for which you knew there were not answers.
Mayor Louras, your extremely poor judgment in excluding the community from this process is going to impede acceptance of the Syrians because people will not have had a forum to discuss their concerns and fears. In some ways the manner in which you did this affirms those concerns and fears. That you had some politically correct motivation does not make it the correct way to have gone about this. It was arrogance in the extreme.
I did get a response from him: Thank you for your perspective. Louras