On Thursday evening, VWC member Meg Cline read the following statement at a press conference in Burlington expressing solidarity with Syrian refugees. Meg is a parent organizing to reinstate staff and services at the VNA Family Room in the Old North End (Click here for more info). Other members of the Vermont Workers' Center are rallying on Friday and Saturday at the Vermont statehouse (at 11:30am) to oppose xenophobic anti-refugee demonstrations and to uphold the human rights of all migrants and refugees.
Thursday's statement reads:
We’re all here to express our deeply felt solidarity with refugees and migrants from Syria and the Middle East, who are fleeing unimaginable hardships and violence and looking for safety for their families. And it’s not just folks from Syria who are looking for a safe place to raise their families and live lives with dignity. We need to open our arms and do what we can do to ensure the rights of New Americans and migrant workers here in Vermont, and lead the way for the rest of the country.
Many of us who were born here are also struggling to get by. Regardless of race or ethnicity, thousands of folks in Vermont are struggling with rent, healthcare and student debt, car loans, and low-wage jobs without respect. And the few programs we rely on, like Reach Up or the VNA Family Room, are being cut by decision-makers who are often insulated from the impacts of their decisions. With all of the talk about inequality, we know that the money’s there → it’s just that wealthy folks aren’t paying their fair share towards public services and well-paying jobs.
People from Syria are fleeing violence -- and we’re right to welcome them to our community. But we need to ask ourselves what type of community are we welcoming them into? Many folks in our communities are struggling to make ends meet, or don’t feel welcome here in the first place. Let’s change that.
In the Old North End, that’s exactly what we’re doing. In the face of budget cuts and layoffs, parents and staff from the VNA family room, many of whom are refugees themselves, are organizing to protect and expand the Family Room’s programs that are so critical for children and families in our community. The Family Room has been a key place in Burlington where mothers, fathers, and kids can come together and build bridges across race, class, and ethnicity, and where people who have come through the refugee resettlement program can get connected with key resources. In addition to welcoming refugees from Syria, we need to be holding decision-makers accountable to protecting and expanding programs like the Family Room, not cutting them at a time when they’re needed most.
With all of the conflicts going on, we know this isn’t going to be the last time that we’re called upon to welcome refugees with open arms. It’s in these moments that we set the tone for the future. Will we build walls and retreat from one another? Or will we all pitch in together, and build lifeboats to get us through the tough times? I’m happy to be out here today with all of you, building that culture of solidarity.