by Pamela Walker
This is a time when the plight of refugees trying to enter the United States, and those who have arrived on our shores and have settled in Vermont, is very much on our minds. The Central Vermont Refugee Action Network (CVRAN) is a young organization striving to do its part to resist the Trump Administration’s restrictive immigration and refugee policies.
It is very disheartening that there is a new admission cap for refugees. In Fiscal Year 2018 the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program will be able to welcome and settle only 345 refugees. The U.S. State Department has approved plans to resettle 270 refugees in Colchester and 75refugees in Rutland. A total of only 45,000 refugees will be allowed into the United States in2018—the lowest cap in decades.
To counteract the current administration’s lack of generosity toward immigrants, the Central Vermont Refugee Action Network, based in Montpelier, is welcoming refugees and immigrant Vermonters who have just arrived or are already settled in Chittenden and Rutland counties. The Network is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to making our local communities welcoming, viable, and safe places for refugees and immigrants to visit, work, and live. The Network works in cooperation with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and other Vermont refugee and immigrant organizations, including Migrant Justice and the Association of Africans Living in Vermont.
Since its founding in 2016, Network members and volunteers have hosted five visits to the State House and Vermont History Museum for groups of refugee students in schools in Chittenden County and new Vermonters who are studying at the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program to qualify for citizenship. The Network has worked with the Green Mountain Bhutanese Organization to assist with employment upgrades, published and distributed a bilingual Nepali/English brochure on workers’ rights, made connections with the Islamic Society of Vermont, sponsored programs to increase cultural sensitivity, and assisted a Vermont Dreamer applying to renew her DACA status.
In addition, the Network is building relationships with new-Vermonter college students in our area, planning a conversation partner program with new Vermonters learning English, and sponsoring a staged play reading of “Qué Nochebuena” on February 24 at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier. “Qué Nochebuena” dramatizes the trauma of the immigrant experience. Members are becoming active with the Vermont legislature to advocate for policies that support the human rights of undocumented immigrants, new Vermonters, and settled immigrants. The Network is striving to be a positive force in these difficult times.
Anyone wanting to join and help with Network projects on behalf of refugees can contact Diane Fitch, firstname.lastname@example.org.