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Governor asks US to resettle more refugees in Vermont

March 19, 2021 GMT

Vermont’s Republican governor is asking the State Department to at least triple the number of refugees expected to arrive in the state in the current fiscal year.

Gov. Phil Scott wrote in a letter that Vermont is scheduled to receive 100 refugees in the current fiscal year and that he would like to see at least three times that number in 2022. The letter was dated Monday and was sent to Nancy Izzo Jackson, of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Scott wrote that Vermont has welcomed more than 8,000 refugees since 1980 and that despite the low number of refugees admitted during the administration of former President Donald Trump, the Vermont branch of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has maintained its resettlement structure.

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“Refugees are an integral part of our efforts to grow Vermont’s economy, which include a workforce development strategy to attract new workers and meet the demographic challenges faced by a declining population,” Scott said in his letter, first reported by VtDigger.

During the Trump administration, the number of refugees admitted to the United States declined dramatically. Last October, the Trump administration set a record-low target number of 15,000 refugees for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

President Joe Biden has said he wants to raise refugee admissions to 62,500 for the current budget year and 125,000 for fiscal 2022.

While Biden has said he wanted to raise the number of refugee arrivals for this year, he has not yet signed the presidential determination needed to increase the number of arrivals, and Trump’s orders have remained in place. It has delayed the arrival of at least 260 refugees who had otherwise been cleared to travel to the United States.

In the last year of the administration of former President Barack Obama, Vermont welcomed almost 400 refugees, the most ever, said Amila Merdzanovic, who runs the Vermont branch of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

In the last fiscal year, Vermont welcomed 23 refugees, the lowest number ever, but the pandemic played a role, as well as Trump administration policies, Merdzanovic said.

Vermont is scheduled to receive 100 refugees this year, but so far only 26 have arrived.

Merdzanovic called the governor’s letter “wonderful.”

“The governor has been supportive from Day 1,” she said.

The refugees who have arrived in Vermont over the past 40 years have helped diversify the Burlington area, where most of them have been resettled.

While her organization shrank during the Trump years, it is ready to expand to meet the needs of incoming refugees, she said.

“We are flooded with calls from excited Vermonters,” she said. “Vermonters are going to do what Vermonters do best, which is to welcome new arrivals.”