Travel ban halts Bowling Green refugee resettlement program

Published: Jul. 12, 2017 at 4:51 PM CDT
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After the Supreme Court ruled in late June that parts of President Trump's travel ban would take effect, the International Center of Kentucky is facing uncertainty in their efforts to help resettle 400+ refugees in Bowling Green.

"Right now we're just stuck with what we have, and we're not sure what will happen," says executive director Albert Mbanfu.

In August of last year, The International Center agreed to take in 440 refugees. Since then, the number of refugees accepted into the country at a national level has been been cut in half.

"When the new administration came in, they said they are reducing that number from 110,000 down to 50,000," says Mbanfu, "and as a result, the resettlement agencies had to recalculate their numbers."

The international Center is now slated to take in 375 refugees, but Mbanfu says they've only been able to help relocate about 260 of them. The status of the other hundred or so is unknown.

"Things are always changing, day-by-day or hour after hour," he explains. "Tomorrow we may get different instructions coming out of Washington, but right now that's where we are."

The current travel ban will be up for review in front of the Supreme Court in October, which for the International Center will be a new Fiscal year, making arrangements for more refugees, complicated.

"It's very very frustrating," says Mbanfu. "For me it's not just a job. It's something that I feel so passionate about, because I have seen a thing or two about people suffering around the world."

"Refugees who are coming in asking about 'what about my brother-in-law? What about my sister? What about this person?' and I cannot have a concrete answer for them," he continues. "It frustrates me as well as it frustrates them."

The international center was recently given $20,000 from the Kentucky Bar Foundation. It's for their "New Life" project, which aims to help empower new refugees, especially women, to help them get accustomed to life in the United States.

President Trump has cited national security as one of the reasons for the ban, and hopes it will assure only the best-suited individuals enter the country.