Bowling Green, KY (WNKY-TV) 440 refugees will be coming to Bowling Green over the course of a year. Before this decision was final, one city commissioner was asking that the Syrian refugees not come to Bowling Green due to what she says is a lack of a Federal Government safety screening process.
"I think it's important to help people," says Nickolaus Burns of Kentucky.
Since 1979 the city of Bowling Green has been a place where refugees have come to call home. On Tuesday the International Center released their numbers for the 2016-2017 year. 440 refugees will be coming to Bowling Green, 40 of which are Syrians, a first ever for Bowling Green. Prior to the meeting City Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Melinda Hill sent out a release asking that the International Center not allow any Syrian refugees to Bowling Green because of security issues.
"The concern is that the Federal Government does not have a system in place to vet the people coming in to our country we have no idea if they are safe or not. Until a program is put in place in Washington that can ensure the safety that these people coming into our country are safe I am opposed to it along with many citizens in this community," says Melinda Hill, Bowling Green City Commissioner.
Commissioner Hill says that last year the decision was to not let Syrian refugees into the city. International Center Executive Director Albert Mbanfu says it's a Federal Government decision and that refugees do go through a 14 step security screening before ever setting foot in the US.
"There's a security process and of course you know they will not reveal the details to us because it's classified but there various steps are there. They are trained to interrogate them diligently they come up with concrete findings and interrogate those individuals. Those are the kind of things that goes through when the refugees are in the process to come to the U.S.," says Albert Mbanfu, International Center Executive Director.
Hill says her opinion is not motivated politically by her running for District 20 Representative, she's just speaking out for the concern of citizens.
"My heart does go out to the people, I can't imagine living the way that most of these people live, it scares me to death, but I also have to be concerned with our citizens here," says Hill.
We talked to area residents who give us mixed reactions about refugees coming to the city.
"Help them, you know we're here to help each other," says Robin Andrews of Kentucky.
"If there's some sort of background check that they could do that would be perfectly acceptable but as long as we know we're going to be safe that's perfectly fine," says Peyton Linder of Kentucky.
"One of the reasons we moved back to Bowling Green was because of the Southern hospitality, but in the same sense there does need to be a better screening process because there's no way to tell who's coming into the country right now, there's no way to cross check them so in that sense it's dangerous," says Nickolaus Burns of Kentucky Resident.
Mbanfu tells us it's a lack of education that creates this fear of refugees being terrorists. It's something the International Center plans to address very soon with a town hall type meeting.
"We don't take the fear in the community for granted. We know that it is there and we do take measures to make sure that we educate the community and alleviate those fears," says Mbanfu.
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon both declined comment on the matter.