refugees

Ileana Gaynor

Schools across Kentucky are shut down for the remainder of the academic year because of COVID-19, and most students are adapting to virtual learning.

But students who were already struggling, or have English as a second or third language, are at-risk for falling behind. 

Educators in Owensboro Public Schools, like teachers across the nation, are increasing communication to keep at-risk students engaged.

Estes Elementary in Owensboro, which has students in preschool through 5th grade, has about 100 "English Learners." Those students are dealing with the combined challenges of language and the loss of in-person instruction in the classroom.


Becca Schimmel

Bowling Green is home to residents from dozens of countries, and schools where students speak about 90 different languages. One of the biggest challenges facing members of the city’s international community is the language barrier.

That can be especially true in the areas of healthcare and housing. 

Navigating the many obstacles of finding a place to live in Bowling Green can be difficult enough for someone who’s a native of the area. Now imagine the challenges faced by someone who struggles to speak English. 


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. 


Liz Schlemmer

 Kentucky’s legislative session kicked off with lots of conservative red meat on Tuesday — gun rights advocates held a day-long rally outside the Capitol and leaders of the state Senate announced that their top two bills will be an anti-“sanctuary city” policy and a voter ID proposal.

But the main task lawmakers will have to tackle over the next 59 working days will be writing a new two-year state budget while state revenue is predicted to be far outpaced by costs.

 


Stephen Jerkins/WPLN

 Two Republican lawmakers want to give the legislature the power to decide whether refugees should be allowed to resettle in Tennessee.

The bill, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, is the latest in a contentious debate between the legislature and Gov. Bill Lee.

The new proposal would create a two-step process. First, local governments would have to weigh in.

 


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. 


Adam Hatcher/GEO International

Educators in the Bowling Green and Warren County school systems worry there’s a growing need for mental health resources aimed at helping refugee students. Many of those students living in southern Kentucky are adjusting to their new lives after facing trauma in their previous homes.

When refugees arrive in the United States, they’ve often been living in refugee camps for a decade or more.

Former Warren County educator Skip Cleavinger said students who are coming from war-torn areas often aren’t prepared to learn. That's because many of them are still dealing with the trauma of being forced out of their home country. 


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. 


How Cultural Training Helps Doctors Treat Refugees

Sep 4, 2019
Carter Barrett I Side Effects Public Media

Across the United States, there’s a push to give new doctors cultural training to work with refugees and other immigrants. And some say it’s the difference between healthy and sick patients.

On a block on Indianapolis’ southside, there are three international grocery stores -- Saraga international grocery, Tienda Morelos and Chinland Asian Grocery. 

This area once was almost all-white and hostile to minorities, according to a newspaper clipping from 1965. Now, a community of Burmese refugees, along with a growing subset of Congolese and Syrian refugees, call this southside suburb home. 


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

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 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.


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