International Center Concerned About Relationship With Local Businesses

Apr 2, 2019

A Bowling Green-based refugee resettlement agency is having trouble helping local employers fill open positions because federal policy has led to a major reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S.

The Trump administration lowered the cap on refugee resettlement to a record low of 30,000 last September. Local businesses that are trying to fill open positions often reach out to the International Center to find workers.

Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said he’s worried the center’s relationship with the business community could be harmed if he has to keep turning away prospective employers.

“It may reach a point where they may be seeking alternative ways to staff their companies, and that may affect us because when we start approaching them for employment purposes, they may not be so motivated to hire our clients,” he said. 

Mbanfu said the International Center doesn’t receive any money from finding employment for refugees. He said companies are so desperate to hire refugees that they’re willing to transport them to and from work, or pay for that expense.

Mbanfu wants congressional leaders to work with the Trump administration to bring more refugees to the U.S.

“Maybe work with the administration to bring in many more folks who can fill these jobs," he said. "That would be a better thing for us, and not just for us but for the country because normally underemployment is a very dangerous thing. It’s just like unemployment.”

Mbanfu said employers often target refugees for their open jobs because they work hard, show up on time and can pass a drug test. He said many of those companies who look to hire refugees are willing to provide job training.

Kentucky is the eighth largest state for resettlement so far in Fiscal Year 2019. In the first two quarters of the fiscal year, 83 refugees have found jobs. 

© 2019 WKU Public Radio