International Center of Kentucky

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The Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky is in the process of resettling refugees who have already arrived from Afghanistan.  

The agency is seeking housing for singles, couples and families with children.

Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said 140 refugees from Afghanistan have already arrived in Bowling Green and half still need housing.

“We have about 70 in a hotel right now in town and we are seeking rental properties to relocate them to their permanent homes,” he said. 

Lisa Autry

A veteran of the war in Afghanistan is preparing to welcome Afghan refugees into his Bowling Green home. 

Bill DeLong served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

The retired Sgt. First Class says it wasn’t a hard decision to open his doors.

"We're Americans, we're supposed to stick together. I think a lot of people have forgotten what happened after 9/11 when we came together," DeLong said. "We're that bright, shining village on a hill. We're supposed to set that example."

About 50 host families are needed in Bowling Green where 200 Afghan refugees will be arriving over the next several months. Bill DeLong and his wife Renee are still waiting for an individual or family to be placed with them. The couple spoke to WKU Public Radio about their motivation for hosting and what they're expecting from the experience.

Lisa Autry

The resettlement of Afghan refugees in Bowling Green and Owensboro is being delayed by the federal government. 

Originally slated to arrive in Kentucky this month, those refugees now are scheduled to come to the commonwealth in early to mid-October. 

Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky, says most refugees bound for the commonwealth are being held at military bases in Virginia where they’re undergoing security vetting and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

“They are also trying to make our job a little easier by helping to process employment authorization cards while at the military bases, so when they come out it won’t be long before they are able to go to work," Mbanfu said.


Becca Schimmel

Some 200 Afghan refugees are on their way to parts of Kentucky, including Warren and Daviess counties, after escaping violence in the Taliban-controlled country.

Some will arrive as early as next week in Bowling Green and other communities within a 100 mile radius of the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky. Half of the Afghans are expected to go to Owensboro. 

All of the refugees were already in the process of resettling in the U.S. before the chaos seen at the Kabul airport in recent days

The International Center's executive director, Albert Mbanfu, says many of the refugees helped American forces in the 20-year war by filling a number of roles, including interpreters.

“Many of them have fought side by side with the U.S. military. That’s what people fail to understand," Mbanfu said. "They were on the warfront with the U.S. military guiding them with language and cultural issues.”

International Center of Kentucky

The Warren County based International Center of Kentucky is expecting an influx of refugees in the next few months. 

Resettlement programs have struggled to help refugees enter the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cuts to admissions made by the Trump administration.

Executive Director of the International Center, Albert Mbanfu, said during a community meeting Wednesday that the center has resettled 111 refugees so far during this federal fiscal year, and is expecting more. 

"June has been a very busy month for the international center, and I think it’s a busy month for all resettlement agencies across the country," Mbanfu said.

International Center of Kentucky

The refugee resettlement agency for the Bowling Green region is planning to notify the federal government that it’s prepared to accept 500 refugees for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

But officials who work with refugees are predicting the actual number of arrivals will be much lower. 

The International Center of Kentucky gathered input from area leaders in the fields of education, health, housing, and employment to determine the regional capacity for welcoming refugees for the fiscal year Oct. 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022.


Lisa Autry

The Warren County-based International Center of Kentucky is hoping to soon be able to resettle more refugees across the Bowling Green region now that President Biden has taken office. 

Biden has adjusted the number of refugees allowed to settle in the U.S. this federal fiscal year to 62,000, according to the resettlement agency. That’s more than four-times the amount that were resettled under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. 

The International Center of Kentucky is expecting to resettle between 300-450 refugees during the fiscal year starting in October. That would be a significant increase from the 162 the agency resettled during the most recent federal fiscal year. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Refugee resettlement officials in Bowling Green believe the international community should be among the first to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available. 

Executive director of the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, Albert Mbanfu, said the refugee community is at high risk because of their living arrangements and because many are essential workers. Most refugees that the International Center has helped place in jobs were working in processing plants where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred. 


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. 


Becca Schimmel

The City of Bowling Green unveiled a new plan Tuesday aimed at building more inclusive communities that are economically vibrant for refugees and immigrants. 

 

The “Welcoming Plan” aims to create a stronger economy, provide safer and more connected communities, and promote resources for New American residents. “New Americans” are defined as any foreign-born person living in the region regardless of immigration status. 

 

Leyda Becker is Bowling Green’s International Community Liason and helped put the strategic plan together. She said refugees and immigrants kept telling her about the challenges they faced finding local jobs. 


Lisa Autry

Bowling Green’s refugee resettlement agency is unsure how many refugees will be resettled in the new year, or where they’ll come from. The International Center of Kentucky is accepting refugees as they come in with little knowledge of how many they’re expected to receive. 

Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said the agency is working on an extended fiscal year, and they’re not sure when the new one will begin. 


Becca Schimmel

The former director for English Language Learning programs in Warren County said standardized tests aren’t appropriate for many refugees and immigrants, because there’s cultural bias inherent in the tests. 

Skip Cleavinger said one of the biggest challenges for refugee and immigrant students is that they’re expected to perform at the same level as their peers on standardized tests within a year of arriving at the school. 

“One of the primary things is that these standardized tests tend to use more difficult language than is necessary to measure math or reading ability.”


Becca Schimmel

Refugees from Africa who were hoping to be reunited with their family in Kentucky may have to wait a few more years.

That's becuse the federal cap for resettling people from Africa has already been met.

Once the cap on refugees coming to America from specific parts of the world is met, travel plans are canceled, and it could be years before they get another chance to apply for the program.


Becca Schimmel

School leaders in both Warren County and Bowling Green say they’re overwhelmed by the number of refugee and immigrant students filling their classrooms.

Superintendents came to the quartely meeting of the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky Thursday to voice their concerns and say they lack the resources to meet the basic needs of those students.

Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton said in many cases his system doesn’t have the resources or the time to properly educate students. He said refugees often enroll in school with little to no formal education. 


Becca Schimmel

A report recently published in Politico said the Trump administration wants to reduce the number of refugee arrivals allowed in the U.S. to zero. This comes at a time when the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky has seen an uptick in resettlement. 

Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said he’s trying to understand why the administration would want to eliminate the program. 

“If you are bringing it down to zero, you are indirectly just destroying the lives of millions of people around the world, who look on to the United States as the only hope for them.” 


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