Refugee educational meeting turns into debate

Published: May. 27, 2016 at 7:49 PM CDT
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The Bowling Green chapter of the International Center of Kentucky held an educational meeting about the Refugee Resettlement process Friday night.

What was set up to be a quick presentation quickly turned into a debate spanning no less than two hours, centered largely on Syrian refugees.

Despite individual attempts to sway people one way or the other, at the end of the night nothing had changed: Bowling Green will still be receiving refugees this year, and up to 40 of them could be Syrian.

"No matter how angry you get in this room, no matter if you burn the building down around us, they will still come," said Immigration Attorney Ryan Schwank.

In the eyes of Deborrah Allen, that was half the problem.

"I was curious about the system of democracy that presented this as a done deal to us. I wondered if they could explain, you know, who could we question about it."

Albert Mbanfu, Executive Director of the Bowling Green International Center of Kentucky, reminded everyone the decision to accept refugees into the country wasn't a local one, nor did it come down from the state.

"The President said when the crisis started in Syria, that we were going to bring in 10,000 Syrians."

"And the Governors of 31 states said 'No, we don't want to play. Ours was one of them,'" countered Allen.

Many members of the community expressed that they weren't totally against refugees coming to Bowling Green or the United States, but they wanted to know for certain they would never pose a danger.

"There's just no way of knowing that. I'm I willing to take that chance personally? Yes, I am," said Kyle Marklin.

The system to vet refugees is extensive, with no less than five layers of security.

"If a bad guy wanted to get into the country, I feel certain that this would be the very most difficult, hardest, nearly impossible way for a bad guy to get here," said Mark Troutman.

One woman said she worked with refugees for 30 years, and doesn't trust the system.

"There is a lot of fraud within the agencies that are placing refugees. They're paid per head by the number of refugees that they sell, and you gotta follow the money."

Troutman told WBKO he thinks it's all a game of fear.

"People like to appeal to people's emotions. I think it's easier to appeal to people's emotions than their intellect."

With little to no opinions changed by the end of the night, the International Center said they would schedule another public town hall meeting before the end of the fiscal year.