Refugee Resettlement Infrastructure Suffering

Sep 24, 2017

Dance at World Refugee Day in Bowling Green.
Credit Becca Schimmel

Refugee resettlement agencies across Kentucky are waiting to hear how many refugees President Donald Trump will approve for the next federal fiscal year. The president has to make that determination by the end of September.

Maria Koerner with the Kentucky Office for Refugees said if the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. is further reduced, funding for refugee resettlement agencies will also decrease. She said anything impacting those agencies will negatively impact services and programs offered to refugees already in the U.S.


“Our country might significantly lower how many can come and that hurts the infrastructure of the refugee resettlement program that is set up here," she said. "So agencies are closing, staff are being laid off. Which will reduce the amount of services for people that have already come to the resettlement program.”


Koerner said her biggest concern is a significant reduction in the amount of refugees allowed to resettle.


“The presidential determination, the lowest it’s ever been set was 67,000 refugees nationwide and now we’re looking at a determination of 50,000 or maybe even less.”


Koerner said that’s concerning because of the recent rise in refugees fleeing due to war, persecution, and famine in several parts of the world. Two new refugee resettlement agencies were slated to open this year in Kentucky, one in Covington and the other in Lexington.


She said President Trump’s executive order issued in January limiting and reducing the number of refugees to be resettled led to changes in the state. Catholic Charities in Lexington is no longer going to resettle refugees and the office in Covington won’t open. Koerner worries that if the amount of refugees allowed increases, the infrastructure won’t be in place.