Refugee Politics in Vermont

This project is a pilot study designed to understand the roles that political organizing
and advocacy have played in the resettlement process of newly arrived refugees in the
state of Vermont.  Focusing on the experiences of newcomers from diverse locations
ranging from South Asia to Eastern and Central Africa to Eastern Europe and the Middle
East, the project looks at the interaction between refugees, service providers and the
broader host communities in Vermont.  With a particular emphasis on Chittenden County– the
primary settlement site for the vast majority of refugees– the project explores the ways
in which new refugees have worked to represent their interests with state and federal
agencies, healthcare providers, employers, religious and ethnic groups, and the broader
community at large.  What types of associations have they formed, what kinds of community
gatherings have they created, and what community spaces have they been able to develop
for use by members of a given population?  Given the historic lack of immigration in the
state, what resources and services are refugees able to leverage for their communal needs
and to what degree?  Is there friction between refugee populations and other potentially
marginalized groups?  Using key informant interviews, community-based surveys, and focus
group research, the project examines the possibilities of cross-cultural solidarities and
alliances and analyzes the challenges of tensions based on race, class, ethnicity,
gender, and language between newcomers and older residents.  The focus of the pilot study
is on representation and power, and will lay the foundation for a longer-term study of
refugee resettlement and acculturation in a generally understudied site, the US Northeast.