Full marks to Rutland Mayor Chris Louras for rolling out the welcome mat to 100 Syrian refugees — and for stoutly defending the decision against the inevitable backlash.
He drew the connection to America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants of all kinds — and he pointed out that immigrants, by and large, are a strong economic plus for struggling cities.
“Their arrival will signal a new wave in the ongoing economic growth of the region,” Louras added. “As our forefathers’ arrival added to the rich cultural melting pot of Rutland County, our newest residents will enrich and expand the tapestry we cherish today.”
Plus, Rutland will probably get some authentic Middle Eastern food out of the deal.
The news seemed to get a lot of positive reaction from city residents; the backlash has come from the area’s legislative delegation, a hotbed of Fox News-style conservatism. In a meeting at the Statehouse yesterday, lawmakers whined about not getting advance notice, for which Louras apologized. But given the tenor of their remarks, I think Louras was smart to pre-empt their predictable (and wrong-headed) whinges.
Rep. Tom Terenzini, one of the more dogmatic Republicans in the House, “expressed deep skepticism over the screening process.” We also, naturally, heard the “lazy immigrant” meme:
Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, and others questioned whether the refugees would take advantage of already overburdened assistance programs like Medicaid or heating bill aid offered through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Her concerns have no connection to the facts, of course. The vast majority of immigrants are eager to take advantage of the opportunities our economy offers. They work hard and try to build a prosperous life. But go ahead, Senator, just keep talking about those lazy ragheads.
Oh, and congratulations to gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman for consistency. He opposes the settlement; he’s still calling for a “timeout” on Syrian immigration until the federal government can fully satisfy his specious concerns about security. Gee, Bruce, Phil Scott pronounced himself satisfied months ago. I guess you’re too busy pandering to the right to actually consider the facts.
Meanwhile, Rutland’s government is making preparations to welcome Vermont’s first wave of Syrian settlers and ease their transition into the American experience.