Congressional Democrats unveiled a sweeping immigration bill Thursday that includes setting up a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Stephen Jerkins | WPLN

Whether someone is in the country legally will have no bearing on whether they get a COVID-19 vaccine in Tennessee, says the state’s health commissioner.  

Dr. Lisa Piercey says people also don’t have to show what county they live in, or for that matter, that they’re a resident of Tennessee. 

“We are not denying vaccine to anyone who shows up at our site and is in phase,” she tells WPLN News. “This is a federal resource, and if you’re in this country, then you get a vaccine.”

There was hesitation among some undocumented immigrants about COVID testing for fear identifying information would be shared with law enforcement – and in some cases it was. Piercey says she expects similar hesitancy with vaccinations, so she says local health departments will work with trusted community groups to vouch for the process or even administer the shots.

DNC video

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.

geobotticella via Flickr

Out of Rodrigo’s three kids, his middle son is in the most unique situation.

The youngest is a U.S. citizen and the oldest a DACA recipient. But the middle kid is not authorized to be in the country.

“It’s frustrating,” Rodrigo told WPLN News in Spanish. “You don’t want to feel like you are living in the shadows.”

Rodrigo, who didn’t want his last name used because of his immigration status, says his kid has been without a legal status since he arrived in the U.S., and when he was about to apply for DACA in 2017, President Donald Trump announced he was ending the program.


The Trump Administration this week announced international students holding F-1 visas would have to return to their home countries if they do not attend in-person classes this fall.

The move took many in higher education by surprise, including Western Kentucky University Associate Provost for Global Learning and International Affairs, John Sunnygard.

In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Sunnygard discussed how he found out about the change.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

In a major rebuke to President Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the administration's plan to dismantle an Obama-era program that has protected 700,000 so-called DREAMers from deportation. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion.

J. Tyler Franklin

A bill that would require Kentucky cities, agencies and public employees to comply with federal immigration officials has cleared the first step in the legislative process.

The anti-sanctuary cities bill passed out of the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee on Thursday with a 7-2 vote. Lexington Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr and Louisville Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal voted against the measure.

Opponents have decried the measure as an expansion of law enforcement powers to untrained employees, saying it would sew mistrust in the immigrant community.


LRC Public Information

A western Kentucky lawmaker is supporting a pre-filed bill to ban sanctuary cities in the state. Sanctuary cities are municipalities that limit, or don’t coordinate with, federal officers to enforce immigration law. 

The bill Republican Rep. Richard Heath is co-sponsoring would prohibit local governments from becoming sanctuary cities and allow the state to withhold funding. Heath serves McCracken and Graves counties.


The legislation would also ban postsecondary schools from enrolling, employing or contracting with people who are undocumented. 

J. Tyler Franklin

When immigrants move to the United States, their professional certifications don’t always transfer over. One Louisville nonprofit is offering small loans to help former doctors, nurses and others overcome the financial obstacles preventing them from pursuing their professions in their new home.

Ricardo Gonzalez moved to Louisville from San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier this year after meeting a Puerto Rican woman who has lived here for decades. He was previously a real estate developer, attorney and U.S. government contractor in Puerto Rico.

J. Tyler Franklin

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said in an interview that he would contribute to buy a ticket for Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to visit her native Somalia.

Paul made the comments when asked by Breitbart News about racist tweets by President Donald Trump, saying Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen of color should “go back” to the “broken” countries they came from.

Three of the four were born in the U.S., while Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia.

Becca Schimmel

Republican Congressman Brett Guthrie spoke about immigration, diversity and military relations with Iran while in Bowling Green on Friday. He said the negative rhetoric about immigration needs to stop on both sides of the aisle. The Congressman sees it as an impediment to diversifying the Republican party.

Guthrie’s district includes Bowling Green, which is one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the nation. He said that’s been a big advantage for the community. 

The Congressman pointed out that the Democratic party is a lot more diverse than the GOP, and the rhetoric around immigration isn’t helping his party attract people of color. 

Kenan Mujkanovic

A Western Kentucky University student with birthright citizenship said he’s not worried about his legal status changing, despite recent statements from President Trump.

The president said he believes he can end birthright citizenship with an executive order. Legal scholars say the U.S. Constitution can’t be changed by a presidential order.

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.

Kyeland Jackson

Trial dates were set Tuesday morning for protesters who blocked entry to immigration court at the Heyburn building last week. Nine protesters from the group called Occupy ICE were arraigned in Jefferson District Court for charges of criminal trespassing in the second degree.

All pleaded not guilty and were given trial dates for August 27 and 28.

They’re facing both state and federal charges for blocking the entrance at the Heyburn building, but they are asking Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell to dismiss all state charges against them and “prove he stands on the right side of history.”

The Democratic nominee for Kentucky’s Second Congressional District thinks the U.S. needs to consider offering amnesty to certain people who are living in the country without documentation.  

Hank Linderman said U.S. policymakers have to consider a wide range of solutions in dealing with the country’s estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants.

“President Reagan signed a bill in 1986 to allow undocumented people that were in the United States to become citizens, and it was called the ‘Reagan Amnesty of 1986.’ So one of things I’ll be proposing very soon is amnesty for folks who have been in the United States since July 4, 2018.”