Rutland is not expecting any more refugees during the current fiscal year, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. A letter dated Jan. 4, from Eskinder Negash, acting chief executive of the refugee organization, said USCRI officials were asked by the State Department Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration to revise its placement plan for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, based on “several executive orders.” “Based on PRM's instructions and our analysis, we regrettably write to inform you that USCRI will 'zero out' its refugee arrival target for Rutland, VT, until we hear further notice from PRM on the resumption of refugee arrivals,” Negash said in the letter. Mayor David Allaire posted the news on his Facebook page Wednesday in a post that was not initially made public and was only available to Allaire's Facebook friends. The post was updated to be made public Thursday afternoon. Allaire, along with Alderman Chris Ettori, attended a meeting at the Community College of Vermont's campus in downtown Rutland on Wednesday. Negash and Amila Merdzanovic, director of the USCRI program in Vermont, also attended. The Rutland Herald learned of the meeting and developments from USCRI from someone who attended the meeting. There are no indications the media was invited to the meeting or informed in advance that it was taking place. Attempts to reach Negash and Merdzanovic on Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful. As recently as October, Merdzanovic wrote in an email that the USCRI hoped to reduce the number of refugees coming to Rutland from 100, but were still hoping to relocate 75 people. Denise Lamoureux, director of the refugee office for the Vermont Agency of Human Services, said in an email Thursday she was “suspending” Rutland Refugee and Immigrant Service Providers Network meetings but continuing an email list. While the recent work by USCRI officials to bring refugees from Syria and Iraq to Rutland has been controversial, USCRI has been relocating refugees to Vermont for 30 years. “Due in part to USCRI's three decades of service in Vermont and the Rutland community's strong support, the first families resettled in Rutland continue to thrive, work and live in peace, just as we had always hoped,” Negash wrote in his letter. A Rutland USCRI office will remain open, but with reduced staff to assist the existing refugees. To date, 14 people, from three families, have been relocated to Rutland. Negash also said USCRI leaders “greatly appreciate Gov. (Phil) Scott's strong support for refugee resettlement.” A call to a  Scott representative was not returned Thursday afternoon. On Jan. 29, 2017, Scott issued a statement in response to President Donald Trump's executive order restricting immigration and refugee resettlement. “I can't imagine what Vermont, or our country, would look like today, had we refused to allow immigrants from all reaches of the world to experience this wonderful country the way most of us have, simply because they were not born here or didn’t share our exact religious view,” the statement said. Scott also vowed to stand up to executive orders “that cross legal, ethical and moral lines that have distinguished America from the rest of the world for generations.” From this time a year ago, there has been much less discussion of refugees in Rutland, but at one time it was an issue that attracted national attention. Former Rutland Mayor Chris Louras told the Board of Aldermen in 2016 he was working with USCRI to bring 100 refugees to Rutland. Some embraced the opportunity to welcome new people to the city, while others complained the program was too ambitious and that Louras had not shared the plan with residents of the city. After Louras lost his re-election bid to Allaire, he said he believed the election had been a referendum on immigration, although there were other issues, including a rift with the Rutland City Fire Department union, that caused controversy. Allaire said after attending Wednesday's meeting he believed “basically the situation is that we're in limbo unless the federal government makes a decision or changes its position.” He added, “I am supportive of the folks that are here. I will do everything that we can locally to help them out if they need any help. I think they seem to be thriving on their own. Until the federal government decides how this is going to go ahead — I'll leave it at that.”

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