Potash Hill

Asylum Seekers Find Respite in Marlboro

In May, after many months of preparation and waiting, two women from Honduras arrived in Marlboro to live, thanks to a partnership between the college and members of the town community. With support from the local Community Asylum Seekers Project (CASP), the effort offers shelter to these immigrants, who would otherwise be living in detention centers, while they wait out the long process of obtaining citizenship. 

“I saw this as an enormous learning opportunity and a good reflection of our values,” says President Kevin. “It gives us, as a learning community, a really practical way to play a small but important role in trying to address a major challenge confronting our country and society.” Kevin was approached by two Marlboro residents, Francie Marbury and Edie Mas, who were interested in accepting asylum seekers into the community, but were concerned that living in the rural village would be too isolating. It was agreed that the college would house them during the academic year, when they could be a part of the campus community and participate in meals, events, and other campus happenings. 

“I feel really lucky to be involved with this,” says biology professor Jaime Tanner, director of the World Studies Program and a member of the committee that worked to welcome the asylum seekers. Other college community members involved included Spanish language and literature professor Rosario de Swanson, visual arts faculty emeritus Tim Segar, and Emma Huse, former experiential learning and global engagement coordinator, who participated as part of her capstone project at SIT Graduate Institute. 

“Right now, people feel a sense of helplessness in the face of the current administration’s policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers,” says Jaime. “This is really a wonderful opportunity to express how much we do welcome others, especially those struggling to find a safe haven.” 

It has been a big adjustment for the two women, who come from a suburban area outside the capital city, Tegucigalpa, and were surprised at how rural it is in Marlboro—a car is necessary to get almost anywhere. But they have felt very welcomed by the town community, where they stayed in a private home for the summer, helped residents with their conversational Spanish weekly at the Marlboro Community Center, and even shared some of their amazing Honduran cooking. 

These new friends are the fifth family to be welcomed into southern Vermont through the auspices of CASP, which was founded in 2015 for this purpose and has seen its mission grow more urgent in recent years. The others are being hosted in Brattleboro, Rockingham, and Westminster. CASP asks all of us to respect their confidentiality, as their citizenship status may be precarious. Meanwhile, the campus community welcomes them while they wait for their first court hearing, probably sometime next year.