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International Center of Kentucky Hopeful Ahead of Biden's Resettlement Plan

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President-elect Joe Biden is planning to reinforce the nation’s refugee resettlement efforts after a dramatic decrease in admissions under President Trump. A Bowling Green-based refugee resettlement agency is hoping to help many more people once Biden becomes president.

Biden wants to set the refugee admission’s cap to 125,000 and then gradually increase that number over time. Under the Obama administration, 110,000 refugees were allowed to resettle. The Trump administration cut admissions to 15,000, the lowest number of refugees coming into the U.S. on record.

Albert Mbanfu, the executive director of the International Center in Bowling Green, said while Biden’s plan is promising, it won’t have an immediate impact. He said due to the limited number of refugees currently being allowed into the country, the resettlement process has slowed drastically.

“After a while, the documents of those individuals who were already approved to come to the United States expires and when the documents expire, they have to go back to the back of the line to start all over again,” Mbanfu explained.

Mbanfu added that the Trump administration cut funding to processing centers overseas which impacted the number of refugees that could be processed in a timely manner. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, international travel was also banned, halting refugees from coming into the U.S.

Mbanfu said more than half of the people currently overseas being helped by his agency will have to start the resettlement process over.

The center was only allowed to resettle up to 250 refugees under the Trump Administration. WKU Public Radio previously reported that during the fiscal year that ended in September, the center resettled 162 refugees.

Mbanfu said under the Obama Administration, his agency resettled over 500 refugees, and he hopes to get back to that number in the coming years.

“We have an incoming administration that understands what this country stands for, that understands what this country is composed of, which is we are a country of immigrants,” Mbanfu said.

It will take time for the incoming administration to revamp the refugee resettlement program. NPR reports that Biden will have to repair the infrastructure of refugee resettlement agencies after major budget cuts, and work on the backlog of refugees that have been waiting to be resettled.

Those issues likely won’t be handled immediately because the President-elect’s focus is expected be on the COVID-19 pandemic during his first 100 days in office.

Former student intern Alana Watson rejoined WKU Public Radio in August 2020 as the Ohio Valley ReSource economics reporter. She transitioned to the station's All Things Considered Host in July of 2020 and became the student reporting and producing specialist in 2023. Watson has a B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism for Western Kentucky University and a M.A in Communications from Austin Peay State University. She is a Nashville native and has interned at WPLN-FM in Nashville. Watson was also a 2nd Century Fellow for Wisconsin Public Radio before rejoining WKU Public Radio. She has received numerous awards for her reporting.
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