Sarah and I were heartbroken by the recent tragic events in Paris, and we stand with all those affected by acts of terrorism.
Though decisions regarding refugee resettlement are federal, Vermont must remain a state that welcomes all peoples. I am proud to stand with Governor Shumlin in his spirited defense of a program that provides a home for individuals and families, many with young children, who have fled extraordinary violence. Governor Shumlin’s statements have been courageous and an exemplar of moral leadership from Vermont.
The governor’s comments were a sharp contrast to those made by right wing Republicans all over America, including in Vermont, calling for a halt to refugee resettlement over safety concerns. Rather than lead by example, this kind of rhetoric plays to our worst fears.
The national Republican rhetoric also greatly distorts the truth. People who apply for refugee status have no control over the country to which they are sent. Candidates are referred to the United States at random and must undergo a stringent vetting process that typically lasts 18 to 24 months. They must prove that they are not firmly settled and have a legitimate fear of persecution. They must pass numerous security checks. They must pass a medical examination. They can be excluded for many reasons, including smuggling charges, previous deportations, or misrepresentation of facts. A significant proportion of potential refugees are turned away.
The truth is that our state needs to grow, and in order to grow we must be welcoming. The federal government must continue to ensure that resettlement is safe and effective. We should and must do our part. Vermont’s past and future are predicated on diversity and inclusiveness in our communities. If we stop being a welcoming state, Vermont ceases to be Vermont.