Local leaders and community members explore ways to welcome refugees to Bowling Green's growing international population
A community-led discussion surrounding Bowling Green's international community brought local leaders and residents together Monday to explore better ways to welcome refugees to the community.
The panel discussion was made up of Bowling Green Mayor Todd Alcott, local business owners, educators, and international students.
The discussion focused on the best methods of helping the growing refugee population in Warren County. Between 2011 and 2016, Warren County saw an 87% increase in the immigrant population in Warren County. Bowling Green is also home to The International Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency responsible for resettling thousands of immigrants.
The city has several services and organizations that help refugees integrate into life in the United States. Refuge BG, is a non-profit that provides resources and support to refugees and immigrants settling in their new homes. The city of Bowling Green also created an International Community Liason Program in 2012 that provides city services, classes, and education aimed at the international community living in Bowling Green.
Bowling Green Mayor Todd Alcott praised local leaders and said the city continues to provide the best services it can for immigrants new to the city.
“We try to come up with solutions or we try to understand how we can best help,” Alcott said. “It comes through good people just willing to donate and our International Center is probably where our best resources come from.”
One issue discussed at last night’s panel was the difficulty many new immigrants face in obtaining a driver's license which can hinder their ability to find steady employment, and what policymakers can do to make it easier.
Alcott said he’s heard the concerns and plans to discuss possible solutions with state lawmakers.
“I have a good working relationship with our Senators and two Representatives,” Alcott said. “I’m also going to have the conversation from the point, these are some of our greatest Americans that are going straight to work and this will increase their ability to be more successful in the integration.”
Mariia Novoselia, a Western Kentucky University student from Ukraine, was a part of the panel. She said community discourse, is a positive step toward helping immigrants.
“I think one important thing about communicating with people who come from different backgrounds is that there isn't a-one-size-fit-all solution," Novoselia said. "So every person should be approached in a different way and that way is with an open mind.”