International Center of Kentucky

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.” 

Becca Schimmel

Refugees facing language barriers are entitled to an interpreter when they go to the doctor, but what many don’t understand is that the responsibility of providing an interpreter falls on the medical provider.

When a refugee, immigrant, or anyone who isn’t fluent in English goes to the doctor, that provider is required to make an interpreter available. It’s a right secured by the federal Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination based on national origin.

Becca Schimmel

A new program to help human trafficking victims is now underway in southern Kentucky. The effort is taking place at the International Center of Kentucky

A grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement will allow the Bowling Green-based resettlement agency to help certified victims of human trafficking. 

Becca Schimmel

A resettlement agency in Bowling Green is looking for mentors to pair with high school-aged refugees. It’s part of a new effort called the Refugee Youth Mentorship Program.

Refugees in their sophomore of high school up to the year after their senior year are eligible to be paired with a mentor. The youth will set their own goals with their mentor in hopes of improving academics, resume building, or career coaching.

Jessie Meier is the volunteer and youth mentorship case manager at the Warren County-based International Center of Kentucky. She said the program will fill an unmet need for the refugee community.

Bowling Green Sees Uptick in Refugee Resettlement

Jun 28, 2019
Lisa Autry

Refugee resettlement in southern Kentucky has been increasing in the past three months. 

The Warren-County based International Center of Kentucky has received 208 new refugee arrivals in the past three months alone. That’s a much faster rate of resettlement than was seen during the first eight months of the federal fiscal year that began last October. 

During that time, the International Center resettled just 128 refugees.

Bowling Green is the sixth largest area for refugee resettlement in the nation, with communities of refugees from from parts of Africa, the Balkans, and Southeast Asia. 

New U.S. Citizen Says Don't Take Voting For Granted

May 20, 2019
flickr/Roger Sayles

For newly naturalized immigrants, Kentucky's May 21st primary election marks the first time to vote as a U.S. citizen. 

Steven Thomas came to Kentucky from the United Kingdom on a green card 30 years ago.  He became a citizen in January this year, and said he's looking forward to finally voting in the state and country he calls home.

"Don't waste the privilege," said Thomas. "I mean I've been on the sidelines of politics for too long in the United States and now I can actually make a difference and my vote will count."

Becca Schimmel

A Bowling Green-based refugee resettlement agency is having trouble helping local employers fill open positions because federal policy has led to a major reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S.

The Trump administration lowered the cap on refugee resettlement to a record low of 30,000 last September. Local businesses that are trying to fill open positions often reach out to the International Center to find workers.

Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said he’s worried the center’s relationship with the business community could be harmed if he has to keep turning away prospective employers.