The number of Syrian refugee families expected in Rutland continues to grow.
Officials with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program say they have been told that seven more families are expected to move to Rutland before the end of September.
In January, after President Donald Trump’s first executive order suspended the U.S. refugee program, many believed the first two Syrian refugee families who arrived in Rutland would be the last.
But Trump’s orders have been blocked twice by the courts. In the most recent setback for the president, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked his revised executive order indefinitely.
The original plan was for Rutland to receive up to 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees this year.
Amila Merdzanovic, executive director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, says that while they recently had been told four additional families would be coming, that number has been increased to seven.
“The families that are in the pipeline are now assured," says Merdzanovic, "which basically means VRRP is ready to receive them when they’re ready to travel.”
She says all seven of the families are Syrian and are two parent households with, on average, three children.
She admits because of the court battles over resettlement, the president’s stance on refugees and the current budget uncertainties in Washington, nothing is guaranteed. And while she has not received word on exactly when the families will travel to Rutland, she remains hopeful they will arrive this summer.
Rutland Mayor David Allaire says he heard about the additional families Tuesday at a meeting with Merdzanovic and local stakeholders involved in resettlement. Allaire says he looks forward to getting more details about the families and their arrival dates when that information is available. He says one of his top priorities is making sure city residents and local leaders are kept in the loop on resettlement efforts.
Last year, Allaire and other city officials voiced concerns that Rutland would not be able to support large numbers of refugees. Asked about that, he said he believes an additional seven families is a number the city can handle.
“We already have two families,” says Allaire. "I've met them and everything so far seems to have worked out fine. They seem to be happy here. I think people here have welcomed them and I would expect nothing less from the people of Rutland."