Syrian Refugees in Small Town Vermont

Rutland, Vermont is scheduled to become home to 100 Syrian refugees, a prospect that has awoken passionate responses from the town's residents.
December 7, 2016, 9am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Doug Kerr

Rutland, Vermont is small and shrinking, "Thirty years ago, the city’s population was roughly 19,000. By 2015, it had dropped to just under 16,000," writes Daniel Judt for The Nation. But it's about to get a 100 new residents from Syria. When Vermont's governor Peter Shumlin announced the state would take in Syrian refugees Rutland's mayor, Christopher Louras, asked to be part of that effort. "The city seemed a good fit… community business leaders, who said there were entry-level jobs available—at the hospital, for example—and no one to take them," Judt says.

But not everyone was in favor of the move. A group called "Rutland First" formed in response to the mayor's decision, another group called "Rutland Welcomes" formed as a response to the response. What Rutland is and what its attitudes are, depend very much on who is describing them. "Over a single weekend in November, I heard residents call Rutland 'Rutvegas,' a 'backwater town,' 'the Rust Belt of Vermont,' the 'solar capital of New England,' 'boring,' 'poor,' 'magical,' a 'conservative bastion in a very blue state,' 'welcoming,' 'biased and racist,' 'inclusive.' A 'genuine town' that is 'constant' and 'slow-changing,'" Judt reports. Regardless of the views of the either of the two factions the refugees will arrive in Rutland in the second week of January. 

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