The Trump administration’s lowering of the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. was threatening to close a resettlement agency in Bowling Green.
But now, the generosity of the Warren County community could keep their doors open.
The Trump administration lowered the cap on refugee resettlement to a record low of 30,000 in September. Because the International Center of Kentucky receives federal funding based on the number of refugees it resettles, a lower cap means lowered funding for the organization. Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said if the cap continues to be lowered, his group will have to rely on the community and charitable organizations to stay open.
“We will reduce our footprint. I don’t think we will actually shut down but we will drastically cut down the services we are providing right now,” he said. “But we will still be open somehow to older refugees, refugees who have been here for a longer period of time.”
Mbanfu said as federal funding has decreased, community donations have increased. He said lawmakers should understand that the majority of people in Warren County are accepting of refugees, and don’t want to see them banned from entering the country. Mbanfu said the International Center also serves as a community hub for the local refugee population.
“They just want a place where they can hang out and socialize, and one of the places they go is the International Center because when they come here they will see people from their own country,” he said. “They can sit and socialize, so we do a lot of things. Not only do we stabilize them and make them start life all over. To certain individuals we are like a therapy center for them.”
He said there are people who resettled in Bowling Green ten years ago that still come to the center to connect with other refugees.
The International Center's efforts to relocate refugees to southern Kentucky have led to a significant population of Bosnian-Americans living in Warren County, as well as groups of refugees from Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.