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With Fewer Refugees, Agencies' Futures Are Uncertain

Josh James
(from the left) Yalda Jamshed, Rahaf Almadhi, and Iqbal Al Gabri rally outside the Kentucky Capitol following a rally for refugees in the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda on March 16, 2016.

The future of Kentucky refugee agencies is unclear as fewer-than-normal refugees arrive in the state.

Kentucky Office for Refugees assistant director Maria Koerner spoke Tuesday at the International Center of Kentucky on the state of refugee resettlement and its effect on agencies, which may have to lay off staff, The Bowling Green Daily News reported.

She said the State Department originally approved 2,431 refugees to resettle in Kentucky for the current fiscal year. As of May, Kentucky has received 1,307 refugees.

"The capacity is going down in refugee agencies, which is just really sad," she said. "If things are able to ramp back up, there's a policy change, the infrastructure wouldn't be there the same way it was before."

Koerner anticipated that President Donald Trump will authorize 50,000 refugee arrivals nationwide for the next fiscal year. That number is down, she said, from 110,000 then-President Barack Obama had set for the same year.

The change follows Trump's executive order restricting travel to the United States from six mostly Muslim countries, a directive blocked by multiple courts. The administration is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Albert Mbanfu, the executive director of the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, said that despite uncertainty in the number of refugee arrivals and resettlement, his center has received record-level donations.

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