News sources are reporting that one million Ukrainians are fleeing their home country, becoming refugees with uncertain futures in places surely unfamiliar to them.
The invasion in Ukraine by the Russian government has spurred a globally-acknowledged crisis; 141 United Nation members voted to denounce the unprovoked insertion of combat troops.
As we have recently welcomed the Afghan refugees, who also fled their war-torn countries for a better life, we now must do the same for our global neighbors in Ukraine. With the desire to live a better life, these are the masses that we welcome, as described on our monuments.
Vermont has the infrastructure and processes in place, because of the recent coming of Afghans to Bennington and Windham counties. We already have the programs and people to help see this new and necessary action through.
The moral reason for helping is obvious. The forward-thinking reason is perhaps more opaque; namely, that Southern Vermont needs workers badly; it needs young families badly; it need doctors, scientists, butchers, artists, journalists, housepainters and mechanics, and every other trade imaginable.
That’s our future. Vermont has been hemorrhaging its youth for decades, and most are not coming back. As our boomer-laden population ages in place, who will be there after them, to carry on the stewardship of their fine Green Mountain homesteads.
Vermonters should know that the Ukrainians are not alone in needing a safe place to raise their families.
More than 82.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced in 2020, the most recent numbers available from the U.N. Persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order sent these people to flee their own countries.
These are people from Syria, Venezuela, Myanmar, South Sudan and others. As a nation, the United States should waive visa requirements for Ukrainians and other fleeing violence and danger in their homelands, while preserving the checks to ensure national security.
Vermont needs to help these people, too, and by all accounts, is ready to help.
On Thursday, Vermont’s leaders spoke out on helping the Ukranian people, offering humanitarian aid and opening its doors to refugees if called upon.
In an executive order, Gov. Phil Scott called upon the Legislature to appropriate $643,077 — one dollar for every Vermonter as counted by the 2020 Census — for humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Scott said Vermont’s door will be open.
“We are ready, willing and able to accept refugees from Ukraine if need be,” Scott said. Vermont has “a moral obligation” to help, he added.
Additionally, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., is in the midst of negotiations aimed at providing billions of dollars in humanitarian relief to Ukrainian refugees.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., also lends his voice of support to welcoming Ukrainian refugees to the United States. Welch was among House members who signed a letter to President Biden on Monday, asking him to protect Ukrainians in the U.S. from deportation.
“In the midst of all this horror, one area that American leadership can be very helpful, is in providing aid for those refugees fleeing war,” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. I-Vt., said. “Now is the time to work closely with our international partners in providing humanitarian relief for the Ukrainian people, and we must also commit to accepting more refugees here in our own country.”
Civilians are dying now, while a megalomaniac wields a nuclear arsenal.
Vermont, with its ample resources, is ready to accept newcomers. We applaud our leaders in Montpelier and Washington for their efforts thus far. Let’s redouble them, and get these new Vermonters home, safe, to eventually build a better Vermont across all sectors.