Proposal could allow up to 40 Syrian refugees into Bowling Green
During a community partner meeting on Tuesday, the Bowling Green chapter of the International Center of Kentucky put up a vote on whether or not to allow up to 40 Syrian refugees into Bowling Green for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
"40 individuals, not families," stressed Albert Mbanfu, Executive Director of the International Center of Kentucky. "And if you look at the total refugee arrivals, we have like, 55-60 percent of them are kids."
There were several concerns brought up during the community partner meeting, but Mbanfu told WBKO no one outright objected to the proposal.
Even after the unanimous decision, he said that doesn't mean the proposal is a done deal.
"It is a proposal, but it is not written in stone. May be validated, or not, so it's not a given that because we've proposed 40 Syrians to come, that it's automatic that we will get them."
Once the projection arrives in Washington, a committee there can decide to lower the number of Syrian refugees allowed in Bowling Green, but they cannot increase it.
Even though the number of refugees that could be allowed in Bowling Green is small, not everyone is on board.
"I went to that meeting in hopes to ask for another year where we would not accept them, and the reason for that is because currently our federal government does not have a good system in place to vet these people coming to our country," said Bowling Green City Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Melinda Hill.
As someone who works with refugees on a daily basis, Mbanfu offered a different point of view, saying there is at least a 14 step process the refugees must go through in order to be granted access to the United States, including steps led by the U.S. Department of Defense.
"Some say Syria has collapsed, there's no information about them and there's no way for us to actually vet them. That's not true. The experts know what they're looking for, and they know how to go about it, and they know how to get that information that they want from the refugees that they are screening."
Hill said vetting system aside, the concerns she brought to the table were those of the citizens of Bowling Green.
"I'd received many calls, and many people had stopped me when I was out in the community, voicing their concerns, and that they would prefer that they not come to our community."
Long time Bowling Green resident Jason Brown said he believes as a Christian, it is his duty to welcome refugees with open arms.
"I would be very for that. As I read the Scripture - Old Testament, New Testament- what I see is God having a heart for the refugee, for those folks in need. Especially the foreigner in our midst."
Brown said he recognizes the power of fear, but that taking a step back and considering the lifestyle the refugees would live without the help of the United States is a tough realization to come to.
"I think the pictures are heartbreaking. As a father, as a husband I see pictures of fathers holding their children, who are injured or who are scared, and I certainly as father would do everything I can to make sure my family and my children are safe. And I understand that, or see that, to be their motivation to come here."
If the proposal is approved by a committee in Washington, Bowling Green could start seeing the first Syrian refugees move in on October 1st, 2016.