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Judicial Watch: Federal Contractor Tells Local Official to Keep Syria Refugee Plans Secret
'If we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork' -- Amila Merdzanovic, executive director, Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program
 
Second Group Helping to Resettle Syrian Refugees in Rutland, Vermont Received 91% of its Funding from Government Grants
 
Contact: Jill Farrell, Judicial Watch, 202-646-5172
 
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch today released 128 pages of documents it obtained from the mayor of Rutland, Vermont, showing a concerted effort by the mayor and a number of private organizations to conceal from the public their plans to resettle 100 Syrian refugees into the small southern Vermont town.
 
The documents include an April 14, 2016, email from Amila Merdzanovic, executive director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, to Mayor Christopher Louras, in which she wrote:
 
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.
 
The mayor and resettlement organizations shrouded the plan in such secrecy that not even the town's aldermen were informed of what was taking place behind closed doors. The aldermen eventually wrote to the U.S. Department of State protesting the plan and opened an investigation into the mayor's actions. The State Department has not yet ruled on whether it will resettle refugees in Rutland despite the aldermen's protest.
 
Handwritten notes state that the issue was, "Not what can 'we' do for 'them,' but what the diversity, cultural richness do for the community." The documents contain detailed discussions of what Rutland will need to provide for the refugees – including housing, jobs, medical care, and places for worship.
 
Judicial Watch received the documents in response to a Vermont Public Records Law request to the office of Mayor Christopher Louras.
 
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.