by Guy Page
The State Refugee Office hopes to welcome 375 refugees to Vermont in 2022, a spokesperson for the Vermont Agency of Human Services said.
Some refugees may come from Ethiopia, where almost a million people are seeking asylum from ethnic and religious wars.
When asked by Vermont Daily Chronicle if people who had entered the U.S. illegally would be among the refugees, spokesperson Andrea De La Bruere said the federally-approved refugees will have undergone a “very comprehensive process” that “can take years for them to be eligible the United States.”
Friday August 6, Gov. Phil Scott announced Deputy Commissioner of Health Tracy Dolan as the new director of the State Refugee Office effective August 30. She will assume the responsibilities for day-to-day operations, management, and expansion of services for Vermont’s refugee program.
Dolan has over 25 years of experience working in public health, including the last 11 years at the Vermont Department of Health. Most recently, as Deputy Commissioner, she helped create and strengthen partnerships with Vermont’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, especially during the pandemic. She also is a professional stand-up comedian.
Governor Phil Scott this March asked U.S. Department of State officials to triple the number of refugees sent to Vermont next year, a request he has made in three previous years. “As a state and nation, we have a moral obligation to welcome those from around the world seeking opportunity and the American Dream,” said Governor Scott. “Refugees are also an integral part of our efforts to grow Vermont’s economy, and build stronger communities.”
The Dept. of Homeland Security determines who does and doesn’t qualify as a refugee. But once someone receives refugee status, they fall under the oversight of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. ORR provides medical and cash assistance to arriving refugees as well as funding for a broad range of social services. ORR funds its programs either through state governments or direct service grants in support of economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment.
Each state has a State Refugee Coordinator or Director, Delabruere said – in Vermont, that’s Dolan. The State Refugee Coordinator’s office oversees services and refugee benefits to eligible clients in-state and coordinates services within the state. Eligible clients are referred to state programs by voluntary agencies (volags). In Vermont, the voluntary agency is USCRI in Colchester. The Ethiopian Development Council (ECDC) applied to the U.S. Department of State to also establish an office in Brattleboro. Their hope is to open in October, pending approvals.
More than 900,000 refugees now live in Ethiopia, most of them fleeing from ethnic and religious strife in South Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia.
Due to pandemic restrictions, in FY 2021 the SRO could only welcome 26 refugees. De La Bruere said Vermont hopes for bigger numbers this year.
“Between the two volags, we hope to welcome up to 375 refugees in FY2022,” De La Bruere said. “We only work with refugees via the federal government (United States Resettlement Program). The applicants undergo a very comprehensive process, and it can take years for them to be eligible to enter the United States.”
Categories: State Government