- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The first Syrian refugee family to arrive in Rutland began settling into their new life in Vermont on Thursday, marking a process the mayor said would see up to 100 people from Syrian and Iraq join the community by the end of September.

A second family was due to arrive later Thursday.

The families arrive amid uncertainty about the incoming Trump administration’s plans for the refugee policy that has allowed the Syrians to be resettled in Vermont and other parts of the country. During his presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump spouted anti-immigrant rhetoric, pledging to crack down on Muslims entering the country and promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Mayor Christopher Louras said he met the first family Thursday morning and they were grateful to be in Vermont.

“I know from interacting with them personally that they as a family are delighted to be in their new home as much as we are delighted to have them in their new home and to be our new neighbors,” Louras said.

Citing privacy concerns, the mayor wouldn’t give too much specific detail about the family. He said the mother speaks French fluently, has a degree in French literature and writes children’s books. Her husband speaks rudimentary English and in their first conversation spoke of the snow, the mountains and the cold temperature.

“We have a family that is driven to be part of our community,” Louras said.

Plans call for Rutland to accept between 25 and 30 families from Syria and Iraq by the end of September.

Stacie Blake of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, which arranged the family’s move to Vermont, said she didn’t anticipate any more families arriving in Vermont before the end of the month. She said she hasn’t heard anything about possible changes to the refugee program after Trump takes office Friday.

“Syrians and other refugees continue to arrive and be welcomed in cities across the country,” she said.

Last spring, Louras announced his plans to convert Rutland into a host city for refugees. Besides offering a safe haven for families fleeing violence, he said he hopes to use the program to revitalize his post-industrial city of almost 16,000 that continues to shrink in population and is plagued by heroin use.

Some in the community opposed the plan, expressing security concerns and a potential drain on local resources.

Dr. Timothy Cook, a local physician who helped found the group Rutland First, which opposed to refugee program, said Thursday he would welcome the refugees.

“I want these people to be safe. I want them to succeed,” Cook said. “But the idea that we are doing this on a strictly voluntary basis when this city has so many concerns already, it seems delusional almost.”

Others, like the group Rutland Welcomes, gathered furniture, clothing and other goods for distribution to the newcomers and some local employers said they were eager to offer the refugees jobs.

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