President Donald Trump has capped U.S. refugee admissions for fiscal year 2018 at 45,000 people.
Amila Merdzanovic, director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, says the effects of that reduction will be felt in Vermont and across the country.
The refugee admissions cap at 45,000 people is less than half of the 110,000 people that former President Barack Obama had called for last year, as well as the lowest it has been since 1980.
Merdzanovic says the agency had hoped to resettle 450 refugees in Vermont this coming year. But she says because of the Trump administration's effort to limit resettlement, they've had to scale their efforts back to 345. Merdzanovic says the State Department has approved plans to resettle 270 refugees in Colchester and 75 in Rutland.
In Colchester, recent refugees have been from a number of countries, including Nepal, Bhutan, Somalia, the Congo and others. Merdzanovic says Rutland is expecting families from Syria and Iraq.
Trump has argued that limits on refugee resettlement are necessary to ensure the nation's safety. But Merdzanovic calls the overall reduction of U.S. resettlement efforts tragic.
“As much as we are absolutely devastated at the fact that 60,000 people — 60,000 refugees — will not be welcomed in this fiscal year," Merdzanovic says, she adds it's important to remember that 45,000 will be allowed in.
"And we have to remember that new lives will have started,” she says.
Merdzanovic says she’s been told by State Department officials that 10 families are in the pipeline to come to Rutland. But she says uncertainties with the president's travel ban and the Supreme Court’s abrupt decision last month to cancel oral arguments on the ban's constitutionality means the arrival of those 10 families remains questionable.