Bowling Green International Center

Lisa Autry

Refugee resettlement in Kentucky has been significantly lower over the past 12 months than what was seen during the previous federal fiscal year. The number of refugees arriving in the Commonwealth has decreased by more than 50 percent according to the Warren County based International Center of Kentucky. 

The United States temporary suspended resettlement programs in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Center of Kentucky based didn’t have any new arrivals from March until early August. This year, the center was only able to resettle 162 refugees during the federal fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30. Many of those refugees are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. 


Rhonda J Miller

South central Kentucky is expected to have 22,000 open jobs in the next five years. That’s going to intensify the current shortage of workers in the state - an issue that’s facing the entire country.

One Warren County company saw refugees arriving at the International Center in Bowling Green as the way to get ahead of the competition for quality employees. 


Refugee Population Needs Reproductive Health Resources

Sep 19, 2017
Lisa Autry

A refugee resettlement agency in Bowling Green is seeking private funds to educate refugees on reproductive health. There’s been an increase in refugees getting pregnant or needing help locating contraceptive resources and information.

The International Center of Kentucky says its clients need reproductive health education. Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said cultural differences are also contributing to the problem.

Mbanfu, a native of Cameroon, said having a lot of children is considered a blessing in many African cultures. He said it’s a challenge explaining to refugees the difference in how expensive it is to raise children in the U.S. compared to Africa.

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.

Becca Schimmel

An event celebrating refugees in Bowling Green will feature some new faces and voices this year. Up to 10 high school students will take the stage Saturday at World Refugee Day.

 

The students are from Geo International, a four year high school serving about 180 students from 25 different countries. Most of the students are refugees, or children of refugees. Several of the students will go on stage and share their personal stories.

 

Zaid Ali graduated from Geo this year, and is native of Iraq. He said he decided to participate for the first time because he has a message he wants to share.

Becca Schimmel

Tuesday marked the end of the first year at Kentucky’s first stand-alone international high school, located in Bowling Green, a refugee resettlement area.

Shoes squeaked and laughter filled the small international high school, where the student body speaks about 30 different languages.

 

What used to be the annex of Warren Central High School is now home to Gateway to Educational Opportunities, or Geo International. The school serves 180 Warren County high school students from 24 different countries.

 


Adam Hatcher/GEO International

Students at Kentucky’s first international high school are preparing to finish their first semester. Gateway to Educational Opportunities International is located on Warren Central High School’s campus in Bowling Green.

About 65 percent of the school’s 180 students are refugees. Assistant Principal Adam Hatcher said some students know four or five languages, with most able to speak at least rudimentary English.

Kevin Willis

The director of the Bowling Green International Center says some in the community continue to express concern about President-elect Donald Trump’s policies towards immigrants.

Trump said during the presidential campaign that he’d round up and deport those who are in the country illegally. He’s since backed off that position and said he will focus on deporting those who have been charged with crimes.

International Center director Albert Mbanfu says that’s little comfort to many of the refugees he encounters. He says he’s telling local refugees that they can’t be rounded up and deported.

“There are so many of our refugee kids wondering if they are going to be sent back to the refugee camps. So we try as much as possible to alleviate their fears and to let them understand that they are legal, and there’s no way they will send them back to the refugee camps.”

Abbey Oldham

The leader of the Bowling Green International Center says he hopes President Obama will announce that undocumented immigrants in the U.S. will not face deportation.

Albert Mbanfu says he’ll be watching the President’s speech Thursday evening with the hopes that Mr. Obama will take executive actions that clarify the status of undocumented immigrants.

“When you’re not sure if you’ll be with your kids tomorrow, you plan for contingencies, rather than thinking about how to comfortably raise your family,” the native of Cameroon said.  

Mbanfu believes the fear of deportation psychologically cripples many immigrants who would otherwise contribute greatly at the workplace and community.

“If you have that comfort in you, that a police officer is not looking over your shoulder to arrest you and send you back to your country, or wherever you came from, then you can think rationally, you can do things in a more composed manner, and that will translate into whatever job that they may be doing,” Mbanfu told WKU Public Radio.

Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell warned from the Senate floor Thursday that “Congress will act” if lawmakers believe the President oversteps his legal authority and unilaterally changes U.S. immigration law Thursday night.