Feds Plot to Keep Refugee Resettlement Plans Secret From Vermont Community

October 12, 2016

City leaders in a Vermont community have taken legal action after they discovered the mayor was going along with a federally-funded refugee resettlement group to secretly resettle 100 Syrian refugees in their town.

“If we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of woodwork. Anti-immigrant, anti-anything.”

Those were the words of Amila Merdzanovic, executive director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, in directing the Mayor of Rutland, Vermont, Christopher Louras, to keep quiet about their plans to bring 100 Syrians into their small town in October.

The mayor was secretly dealing with the refugee resettlement group, not even letting the town’s aldermen know what was going on. When they learned about the plan, they demanded open, transparent discussions, to allow the public to vote on the matter, and sent a petition to the Department of State to suspend the resettlement. The outcome of that is still pending.

On behalf of the community, Judicial Watch filed a Vermont Public Records Law request asking for all documents from the mayor’s office related to the matter, and have released 128 pages of those documents, revealing the plotting that took place behind the scenes to bring 100 Syrian refugees into a community who does not want them.

Getting local churches involved is part of the scheme to make the plan work.

The April 14, 2016 email from Merdzanovic to Mayor Louras says:

“I want to share with you the concern my HQ has about holding a public forum. If we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of woodwork. Anti-immigrant, anti-anything. They suggest that the forum be invite only but make it as wide as possible. Work with faith leaders, United Way, etc… Perhaps, we could go back to the Congregational Church and continue the conversation there.”

Judicial Watch
reported that Merdzanovic later told the Boston Globe that the hidden talks were “the right thing to do — to move slowly, keep it to a small circle of people, and then expand.”

On April 10, 2016, she wrote to the director of the State Refugee Office about her coordination with the mayor to keep the resettlement program secret:

“He did share with me that the Governor’s office called him after getting a frantic call from DOL [Vermont Department of Labor] inquiring about the plan to resettle ‘100 Syrians in the next month’ in Rutland. Again, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sharing the information even if it is confidentially. Please respect our process, you will have plenty of opportunity to share and take action once we have met with the stakeholders. At that point we can and will share it widely. It will not serve any one of us well if the community in Rutland learned about it through the grapevine and not directly from us. The above example shows that what people hear and how they interpret it is two different things.”

The documents contain detailed discussions of what Rutland will need to provide for the refugees – including housing, jobs, medical care, and places for worship.

They plotted carefully to try to make the community think this was going to be a huge benefit to the town, and not the other way around. Judicial Watch reports that handwritten notes state that the issue was, “Not what can ‘we’ do for ‘them,’ but what the diversity, cultural richness do for the community.”

A May 3 document shows Hal Cohen, secretary of the agency for human services, introducing a meeting: “Vermont gains from diversity – new ideas, delicious food (laughs) …” A set of April meeting notes by the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants stated: “Refugees can bring global perspectives and expertise … direct knowledge about history and world events (unfiltered by media) … synergize energy & momentum with youth.”

The reason the refugee resettlement agencies work so carefully to successfully slip refugees into the communities – even if they have to do it secretly: a lot of money is at stake – most of it from federal grants. According to financial statements, the parent organization of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program – the U.S. Committee For Refugees and Immigrants – received over $46 million in federal funds during fiscal year 2015 – which was over 91% of its entire funding.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “Americans should be concerned that the Obama administration is funneling at least $46 million in tax dollars to a shady operation that encourages elected officials to cover up Obama’s Syrian refugee scheme.”