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Vermont Looks To Accept More Refugees

Vermont Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott

Governor Phil Scott reiterated his desire to bring more refugees to Vermont during his weekly briefing on Tuesday. It’s a move that advocates say is good for the diversity and economy of the state.

In mid-March, Vermont’s Republican governor wrote to the U.S. State Department asking for a significant increase in the number of refugees the state will be allowed to host. VTDigger, the online investigative news outlet, had obtained the correspondence and reported that Scott wants triple the number of refugees approved.

The governor feels it will not only help the state’s diversity but balance workforce needs.

In the wake of the abrupt U.S. departure from Afghanistan, Scott was asked if the federal government had responded to his request.

“We did receive a response, more of a thank you for your letter type of response and they would keep that in mind. We did reach out again in the last two or three days to make sure that they knew that we were here and ready, willing and able." Scott added. "And it appears that there may be a need in the very near future. So again we’re ready, willing and able to help those who are coming from war torn countries.”

The Vermont Law School operates an immigration clinic in Burlington. Director Erin Jacobsen says the governor’s continued efforts and offer to bring more refugees to the state is a reflection of how supportive the state is of refugee resettlement.

“We’ve been a refugee resettlement state for over 40 years now with Chittenden County being the primary place where refugees are initially resettled. And I think we do a really good job of it. And then too it’s a reflection of what a benefit that refugees are to our communities and our state." Jacobsen explains "And I don’t just mean the economic benefits but the ethnic and cultural diversity and refugees are really an important and robust part of our workforce.”

Jacobsen adds that while refugees in the state come from all over the world they tend to be natives of war ravaged areas.

“Historically in Vermont people have come from Bhutan, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Burma, Vietnam. It’s essentially wherever a lot of the global conflict is happening. Then we will start seeing people from those locations." She continues, "So I am certain we’ll start seeing people from Afghanistan. We’ve started to see a lot more people seeking asylum from places like Venezuela. And then too you see people who are seeking protection such as Haitians who maybe already are here but then can’t go back.”

On Tuesday, Vermont Democratic Pat Leahy was among 46 senators who signed a letter to the Biden Administration asking that a special category be created to facilitate evacuation and protection of Afghan “women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, parliamentarians, journalists, and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces.”

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