By Patricia Minichiello
A letter from members of the Board of Aldermen to legislators asking for more information on the refugee resettlement application process will go to committee at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The letter was read by Alderman Scott Tommola during the Sept. 6, Board of Aldermen meeting. It was addressed to Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration. Tommola said the letter stated:
“Dear Ms. Richard,
We write to supplement our July 5, 2016, letter regarding the refugee resettlement program proposed for our city.
You will recall at the time we expressed to you our considered opinion that due to a lack of information we were not in a position to provide you with a letter of support for the project.
Unfortunately we remain of that opinion today, and as the governing entity of the city of Rutland respectfully request of you and the bureau of population refugees and migration to disregard any and all previous letters of support including Mayor Louras’ as well as any representations made by any individual or entity written or otherwise regarding Rutland’s capacity to resettle refugees for the following reasons:
This board has never been provided by any entity a data-driven explanation to support the hypothesis that the city of Rutland has the capacity reported by the application, its abstract and attached letters of support, to reasonably conclude that our city just under 17,000 residents can successfully meet and sustain the needs of 100 refugees arriving annually.
Despite our diligent good faith efforts, informally and through FOIA requests to obtain a complete copy of the application prepared for your consideration by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, the withholding of critical information we need to appropriately consider this proposal in a manner consistent with our sworn responsibilities as elected officials continues.
The only documentation we have received consists of a three-page abstract which fails to explain how its numbers were derived. If the department of state utilizes metrics or formulas to substantiate the number of refugees that USCRI/VRRP and their local stakeholders decided Rutland can support, this methodology must be immediately released for this board’s to review and consideration prior to any decision being made by the department of state.
Continued lack of transparency regarding how capacity of resettlement communities is determined suggests that the number of refugees bound for Rutland is either arbitrarily determined, based on unsubstantiated speculation, or perhaps worse, determined based on the amount of federal funding USCRI/VRRP requires to meet the goals of their business plan.
Finally Mayor Louras’ letter of support endorsing refugee resettlement in Rutland should be disregarded until it is determined if his actions violated city charter, which is state law.
As stated in our previous letter July 5, Rutland is and always has been a giving and welcoming community. While the humanitarian efforts of USCRI/VRRP and Mayor Louras should be lauded, it appears that the federal government and its contractors are not willing to justify their actions to the very communities that will be impacted. Therefore as the governing entity of the city of Rutland, this board urges you to disregard Mayor Louras’ letter of support, disclose to us the full application, including the complete statement of rationale, as well as disclose a complete description of methodology used when determining the number of refugees to resettle in a community. Until this simple request can be met, this board shall not offer their support for refugee resettlement in Rutland.”
Tommola did not say who signed the letter.
The board voted to send the letter to the economic development committee, which meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Patricia Minichiello is a freelance reporter and editor of vtpresspass.com. You can reach her at email@example.com.