refugees

Bowling Green International Festival

The Bowling Green International Festival is celebrating its 29th year of promoting cultural diversity.

Organizers says Saturday’s event will feature a record-number of food booths, which will allow festival-goers to sample cuisines from different cultures. Three stages spread across downtown's Circus Square Park will feature music, dance, and cultural demonstrations.

“You see a lot of neat and interesting things as far as cultural demonstrations and dress”, said Hannah Barahona, Vice President of the Festival’s Board of Directors. “You can, of course, try different kinds of food that that you’ve never had before. But at the same time it’s a really good opportunity to show support to our foreign-born residents within our community.”

Becca Schimmel

The Trump administration’s decision to lower the cap on refugees admitted into the U.S. is calling into question the future of refugee resettlement in Bowling Green. The administration announced Monday it’s reducing the refugee cap to a record low of 30,000. The International Center of Kentucky was planning to resettle about 400 refugees this year, but now it may not be able to bring in even half of that.  

The Bowling Green-based agency is a volunteer group that relies on federal funds to resettle refugees. With less refugees coming to Bowling Green, the International Center will have to cut back on staff and resources.

Becca Schimmel

Tougher federal guidelines on refugee resettlement are having a big impact on a southern Kentucky agency.

The Trump administration has cut the overall number of refugees allowed into the U.S., and has added increased layers of security that have drastically cut the number of refugees from majority-Muslim countries. The advocacy group Human Rights First says there’s been a 90 percent decline in the number of refugee Muslim admissions in the U.S. compared to the 2017 federal fiscal year.


Lisa Autry

Bowling Green resettled more refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo over a recent three-month period than from any other country. The size of some of those Congolese families is presenting challenges when it comes to finding living arrangements.

Evelina Gevorgiyan is the refugee program manager at the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky. She said many of the Congolese refugees coming from Kentucky have large families, including one with 14 people. But many landlords will only allow two people per bedroom.

Kevin Willis

The leader of a Bowling Green-based refugee resettlement agency says his group is on pace to relocate less than half the number of refugees it was supposed to receive this fiscal year.

Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the International Center of Kentucky, said Thursday his agency was supposed to relocate 279 refugees during the current federal fiscal year that ends September 30.

But they’re on pace to only receive about 125 refugees during that time period.

Updated 9:55 a.m. ET

A federal judge in California temporarily blocked the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program late Tuesday night.

Widely known as DACA, the program protects young immigrants from deportation. In September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program would be phased out.

The DREAM Act has failed to pass when Democrats have held complete control of government; when Republicans have held all the cards; and in periods when the two parties have split control of the White House, Senate and House.

But lawmakers from both parties hope to secure permanent legal status for people protected by the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals , or DACA, program and they are trying to achieve some sort of solution over the next two weeks.

Becca Schimmel.

The International Center of Kentucky is hoping to reach their cap of resettling 300 refugees in the next fiscal year. Albert Mbanfu said keeping up with the different refugee bans imposed by the Trump administration has made it difficult to meet his group’s resettlement goals. Mbanfu is the director at the international center in Bowling Green.

He said his group has the capacity to resettle more than three-hundred refugees, but he’s unsure they’ll meet that goal.

flickr creative commons

Some refugees who have resettled in Kentucky are facing a challenge to their independence. Many refugees aren’t able to get their driver’s licenses because they don’t have access to an interpreter.

 

Court approved interpreters are allowed to assist refugees with the written portion of the test, but cannot be in the car to help during the driving exam.

 

Maria Koerner with The Kentucky Office of Refugees says this presents a challenge for refugees who have limited conversational English skills, especially if they’re nervous. She said state law currently prohibits a third person from being in the vehicle during the driving portion of the test.  

Becca Schimmel

Refugee resettlement agencies in Kentucky are waiting for the official word on how many refugees will be allowed to resettle in the U.S. during the current fiscal year which began this week. President Trump is expected to set the cap at 45,000 refugees. That would be the lowest limit set since the Refugee Act was signed in 1980.

 

Maria Koerner with the Kentucky Office for Refugees said while the limit of 45,000 was expected, it’s still disheartening. She said a decline in the number of refugees allowed into the country has--and will continue to--negatively affect funding at refugee resettlement agencies around Kentucky. Koerner said nearly half the cases she works involve reuniting refugees with family members already in the U.S.

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.

Becca Schimmel

President Trump’s call to cut legal immigration by half over ten years would have a significant impact on Kentucky’s economy. Immigrants and refugees in Kentucky are more likely to start their own business than native born Kentuckians.

Trump said the U.S. has a history of taking in too many low-skilled workers from other countries. Anna Baumann, with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a left leaning research institute, said a lot of skilled labor in Kentucky actually comes from immigration. Baumann noted one of every twenty immigrants in Kentucky is a small business owner.

Community Action of Southern Kentucky

President Trump’s proposal to cut legal immigration by half and consider English language and job skills has set off a controversy about whether the nation is changing the welcoming message of the Statue of Liberty. The proposed immigration rules could affect businesses in Kentucky that face a shortage of entry- and mid-level workers.

When you talk to business owners in Kentucky, many say they have positions that are not filled because they can’t find enough people with the right skills, or willing to do the job. Some don’t arrive at work on time and some can’t pass the drug test.

Burundian Growers Find Roots In Louisville

Jul 31, 2017

On the 21 acres of grassy land that surround the barn-shaped Passionist Earth and Spirit Center, Joseph Kashamura is wearing red pants and black rubber boots. He’s watering intore, an eggplant native to Africa.

His day job is packing metals in boxes on Preston Highway. But every day when he’s done with work, he comes to the center off Newburg Road to work on an acre-sized patch of land.

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

The Islamic Center in Bowling Green is sponsoring a first-of-its-kind Unity Festival Friday.

The Islamic Center hopes the event will bring local officials and the Muslim and refugee population closer together.

Backpacks and school supplies will be handed out to the 210 children expected to attend. The event is not open to the public, because the Islamic center is only providing supplies to the children expected to attend.

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