Comment worth noting: US State Department, what is going on in Bowling Green?

Update November 18th:  The tangled web that will hinder any investigation of refugee neglect, here.

Update November 17th:  More information on the satellite office of the BGIC that will open Dec. 1 in Owensboro, here.

Update November 14th:  Readers should know that this post is the most visited post for the last few days at RRW.  I don’t know who all is reading it, but I assure you many many people are.  If you didn’t see it yesterday, I posted information on the State Department’s Operational Guidance for Resettlement Agencies, here, and have had several requests for it so far.  This document outlines what is expected of federally contracted agencies when they resettle refugees.

Comments worth noting is a category we set up for comments (usually to older posts)that might be lost to most readers unless we showcased them here.

We just received this shocking information from a friend of a Burmese Karen refugee resettled recently in Bowling Green, KY.  The comment came in response to my post on October 25th about resettlements at Bowling Green, here.    It sounds like a repeat of what happened to the Burmese resettled in Waterbury, CT more than a year ago where some local church people finally were able to get the attention of the US State Department and the negligent resettlement agency was closed there.

US State Department, why does this keep happening?  And, why have you approved another office for this agency in Owensboro, here?

From a reader identified as C. Flores:

Jason [another commnenter at the post], you have to remember these people are refugees. They did not come to Bowling Green by choice! These people need some compassion cas’ they surely aren’t receiving it in Bowling Green!

You need to take action and write Governor Steve Beshear, Congressman Geoff Davis, Senator Mitch McConnell,
Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash, Major Elaine Walker, Commission Joe Denning, Commissioner Catherin Hamilton, and Commissioner Bruce Wilkerson, US Campaign for Burma, USCRI and many of the Universities in Kentucky… Have the people of Bowling Green to sign and take action. This is coming from your tax $$ and mine!

The International Center (aka Western Kentucky Mutual Assistance Association) needs to be stop!! The filthy living condition they have in BG, they were better off where they came from. I’m totally humiliated that America are doing this to these refugees!!!

This is an email I sent to all of the above November 2, 2009.

“I drove 210 miles down to Bowling Green, Kentucky on Friday, October 30th, from Northern Kentucky to welcome a son of a Karenni/Burmese family I been visiting in the Thailand Refugee Camp outside Mae Hong Son, since 2003.

I stayed in the son’s apartment at Lover’s Lane for 3 days and I was horrified from what I saw and heard from the Karenni refugees in Bowling Green. I didn’t realize there were so many Karenni living in BG. They all had so many questions for me and I didn’t know how to answer any of them. I was totally dumbfounded from what I saw. I never imagined America would do this to these refugees.

The Riviera apartments on 1106 Lovers Lane and the Greenwood Villa Apartments on 1500 Bryant Way, are slum apartments loaded with cockroaches and rodents. They were totally nasty! And these apartments are charging them $500.00 a month after they land a $9.00/hr job at the chicken factory. They are not worthy to even live in. The walls and carpeting in all the apartments I went in, haven’t been cleaned in years by management!!! The owners of the apartments have to be working with the International Center for “PROFIT!!!” They honestly need to be demolished. They are unlivable!!!

On Saturday, I bombed his apartment and took the family out to trick or treat. When we came back, it took the son and I over an hour to clean up the cockroaches. It was totally disgusting!!

I was totally bewildered the whole weekend. I called the Bowling Health Department on Monday, November 2, to report the living conditions the Karenni people are living in. As I write this, I am still baffled; “where are the funds going?” It’s a total disgrace!

These people have only what they brought with them usually one luggage with their whole life in it. They do not have enough winter clothing, eating utensils & dishes, no furniture, basically nothing and winter is around the corner. I had to go out and spend close to $300.00 of my own money to buy the family the necessities and the majority of items I purchased was 2nd hand.

The whole weekend, I kept asking myself, “why would America bring these people over here if they can’t help them?” Knowing the life of a Karreni refugee camp, I feel as they had a better life in the refugee camp than living in Bowling Green, Kentucky! I drove the 3 hours back in disbelief. How can these Karreni people get help! We need to stop bringing refugees in if we cannot help them.

When I arrived home Sunday night, I had to leave my luggage out in my garage and bombed my garage in case I brought home any cockroaches. The apartments are that bad!

I searched in vain regarding the crisis in Bowling Green and this man links (“What’s going on in BG…”) below explains it exactly how life is for these Karenni people. Somebody needs to help them please!!! “

Jason, if I didn’t live 3 hours away, I’d be asking a lot of questions how is your tax $$ being used to help these people! They need help and the are not receiving it in BG!

Ask the people of BG to help them. They desperately need winter clothing. The need rides to the Asian/Thai Supermarket for food. When I walked in the son’s apartment, he had 2 coffee cups, 1 plate and 2 spoons and he has been her for over 3 weeks!! He didn’t have any furniture in his apartment and he has a wife and 2 small children.

Bowling Green needs to be ANGRY at the International Center in BG! I am!! I am driving back the 3 hours one-way again this coming weekend. Why, because no one in BG is helping them! After this family gets all their identifications, I plan on bringing them home with me. I don’t have the $$$ to support them either, though I do have the compassion. I bring them all here in Northern KY if I could.

“acorcoran” Thank you for all the time you have done with these very informative posts. Please let me know how I can help. I don’t know what more I can do besides emailing the ones above. This is all new to me and I honestly don’t know where to begin!! ~C. Flores

To C. Flores, I’ll be in touch with you tomorrow with some suggestions!

70 thoughts on “Comment worth noting: US State Department, what is going on in Bowling Green?

  1. I befriended an Iraqi refugee family recently in BG. The oldest son was employed at the Chicken factory, unfortunately, had several fainting bouts, and was unable to continue working.
    He went to Greenview Hospital, had a CT scan, and the results were normal. From what I understand, no blood tests were carried out, no MRI performed to exlpore the cause of the fainting bouts. The mother and dependent girls have a medidcal card, the son does not because he is over the dependent age bracket. Can anybody suggest a free clinic in Bowling Green?
    Do they exist? Any information is appreciated. Thanks


  2. So what happened to the comments from Cflo and Jack about the Greenwood Apartments? There were two comments about something that happend today at the Greenwood Apartment Complex that Cflo posted. Why were those comments taken down?


    1. Because they will be part of a new post later today or tomorrow. So if you want to weigh in on those issues, especially if you have first hand information on what happened then please come back and tell us.


  3. Mark21281,

    I was not contacted by the BG International Center to speak out nor I am trying to deflect attention away from the apartment complexes. I just wanted to share some positive things that other landlords in Bowling Green are doing and plan to continue in the future for the refugees. My position is that if I need to correct or improve the living conditions for the refugees, I will gladly do it. They deserve good living conditions and we work hard to do that. We cannot, I will not, treat them differently than all other tenants. In fact, we have had several Burmese tenants tell other Burmese to move to our complex because we are good to them. I feel good about that, we are doing many things right. Thanks Mark, Jack


    1. But you seem to have successfully deflected attention away from the refugees who have been put in terrible conditions whether you are trying to or not. Why do you think that you must point to positive conditions for other refugees as a response? How does that help the refugees in question? It’s like if I complain about repairs not being made to my apartment and the landlord says, “that’s okay, other tenants in other landlords’ building are okay so it shouldn’t matter.”

      As a matter of full disclosure how did you come to the RRW website since you are likely not a regular reader?


  4. In the company of more Karenni refugees from the Kentucky refugee Ministries in louisville…same miserable living situation as in BG. They came down looking for work.

    More lost souls looking for any “hope” in the great USA—-


  5. This isn’t the first time even in the past couple years that USCRI and it’s affiliates have been caught neglecting their refugee clients. The International Institute of Connecticut lost it’s government refugee contract this past year for…SURPRISE…placing refugees in filthy and roach and rodent infested apartments without furnishings, among other serious problems.

    Refugees of the USCRI affiliate in Kansas City in June 2009 were found in similar conditions – debris-filled apartments, grime on the walls, mold, cupboard doors that fell off the hinges, a couch so dirty that refugees refused to sit on it, nobody picking up the refugees at the airport upon their arrival, a five-year-old refugee girl with a broken arm who went three days without medical care because nobody from the refugee agency came to take her to the hospital.

    Last winter in Manchester, New Hampshire refugees were put in poor quality, insect-infested housing by the local USCRI affiliate.

    In March 2008 refugees in Akron, Ohio who are clients of the local USCRI affiliate were found in overcrowded apartments with roaches and rats. A local volunteer talked about, “rats in the bottom of the ovens. The cockroaches were just amazing. I would open up a cupboard and there might be 50 of them jumping out at me.”

    In June 2009 a volunteer reported similar conditions at the USCRI affiliate in Burlington Vermont. In one refugee apartment the kitchen walls literally dripped with layers of grease accumulated over years of cooking, an linoleum floor was grimy and brown, the dingy carpet hopelessly unclean-able, window blinds caked brown, other windows covered with sheets or blankets to keep out the cold, a bathroom toilet that often overflowed, a stained sofa lit by a lamp without a shade. The smell of the apartment was really dirty; lots of cockroaches. A refugee said it would have been better living outside than in this house, because it was cleaner outside. Refugees were forced to live three families to an apartment. There was no one on staff who spoke the refugees’ language, and the refugees were pressured to sign documents that no one could explain to them.

    So can some of the deniers here explain to me how all these other USCRI affiliates were recently caught cheating the refugees but that it’s impossible that the International center in Bowling Green would do the same thing?


  6. To Believer in Humanity, Did you read my first post on October 25th here in which I refer to the International Center’s Form 990’s? These resettlement agencies are not supposed to be primarily funded from the government. They were set up as public-private partnerships which means they were supposed to put some funds in of their own.

    You mention their financial statements, please send a link to those for all of us to see. They have obviously removed their website.

    And, please tell us your affiliation with the agency so we can better assess how it is you are working so hard in their defense in the face of mounting firsthand evidence from Bowling Green that refugees are suffering.

    It is obvious this agency is over its head. So, why on earth do they keep bringing refugees? They should stop until they can catch up with what they have. They can just tell their mothership—USCRI—to stop the flow for now. But, of course, stopping the flow, also stops their federal pay check.


  7. Readers, this is a comment from “Jack” who posted his comment at my earlier post on Bowling Green, but it might help clarify some points made here.

    Cindy, I applaud your compassion and concern for the Burmese refugees in BG, Ky. I own and manage an apartment complex in BG with many Burmese families. I agree that they do need help in the areas you have mentioned. Let me share with you some of the things that we have done and are doing for all refugees including the Burmese. I have attended several meetings with the Mayor and City Commissioners requesting Stimulus Funds to weatherize their apartments to reduce their monthly electric bills. Currently, I pay for the water, sewer, and sanitation. I am applying for a grant with the Kentucky Housing Corporation to rehab the apartments and complex for all tenants. I have contacted the local Community Action Office regarding weatherization of apartments too. I have a professional pest control company spread for roaches, bugs, and rodents plus I call them on a “as needed” basis. It is an on-going effort because many tenants leave food out which attracts them. We are in the process of educating refugees not to put rice, grease,
    paper towels, towels, panties, in the sink and toilet drains. It does keep our maintenace personnel and plumber busy – but they just need some educating, which we will do with an interpreter. We paint, shampoo carpets, clean stoves, refrigerators, bathroom tubs and sinks, check smoke detectors for all tenants before they move in and before a new tenant moves in – this includes all tenants including refugees, regardless of long they lived in the apartment. We treat refugees the same as everyone else – that’s what God wants us to do.I contact Resource Coordinators at the local Public Schools for school supplies for refugees. I personally have helped refugees to fill out job applications, resumes, food stamp requests, IRS letters, unemployment comp. claims, pay for telephone and utility expenses so these won’t be turned off, provide transportation, purchased food, purchase clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, small appliances, TV’s, toys, blankets, coats, gloves, and other needed items. My wife and I go to garage/yard sales every Saturday asking for donations and buy items if they won’t donate them. I have several non-agency friends that are helping to obtain and give needed items to them as well. We do not charge them,we give it to them free, seeing the smile on their faces, the children laughing when they get toys, and the adults grinning from ear to ear is enough payment for us. I am in the process of talking to an interpreter to meet with me and the refugees to help them transition to our country plus hear their complaints, needs, and areas that we can help them. I do not charge them for any maintenance repairs, it’s my responsibility to keep the apartments is a good living condition. I realize where they have come from and how hard it must be to move to a foreign country and not be able to speak the language and be able to function on a daily basis. I have experienced that myself when I was in the military in a foreign country. I contact other agencies in BG for assistance for the refugees, for example: one refugee needs baby clothes, maternity clothes, baby car seat, etc. I was able to get several agencies to give her many of these needed items. We have refugees from 12 different countries in our complex and I throughly enjoy all of them. The Burmese are particularly special to me. They appreciate whatever you give or do for them. Many refugees pay me back by cooking me bread, meat dishes, etc., I also share with them things that my wife cooks for us as well. It’s great! My son moved out recently and he gave a lot of furniture, clothes, kitchen items to the Burmese. When tenants move out and leave lamps, sofas, chairs, etc., I knock on doors and take them to the apartment and they take what they want. My wife and I recently took 30 bags of clothes to the Burmese recently. When our van pulls up and I hook the horn they start pouring out of their apartments – what a fantastic thing to see, you would love it too.
    [Edit: Jack, I will forward your contact info, I’m not comfortable putting your phone numbers in this post.]

    Thanks, Jack
    God bless you and your “families”


    1. Thank-you Jack for what you have done to help the refugees. That being said, the apartments with filthy carpeting and walls from previous tenants is not acceptable. You may not have the money to maintain your units and you may be applying for some grants, yet it is still your responsibility that these things be done now. The apartments need to be left empty until you can clean them for the next tenants. You seem to be going beyond your capacity.

      It is the responsibility of the refugee resettlement agency to orient these refugees to apartments living, which means how to cook and clean appropriately, etc. Apartment living is new and different to what they have been used to their entire lives. It stands to reason that they may not be cleaning and storing foods appropriately. This is another reason not to fill up entire apartment buildings with refugees. What has been done to control insect and rodent infestations is apparently not working or not adequate. No one, however, expects that you provide case management services that the International Center has been contracted to provide.


      1. We are maintaining the apartments by painting, cleaning carpets, and others but the grant I am apply for is to purchase energy efficient appliances, windows, water heaters, HVAC systems – items that will reduce energy consumption and reduce electricity bills for the tenants. I do have the capacity to provide clean living conditions for all tenants. We address all maintenance issues (including pest and rodent control) quickly and have monthly treatments ans also on an “as needed” basis. Our apartments are not fully occupied by refugees, although they are very good tenants. Again, we do not move tenants in until the apartments are clean and ready for new tenants to move in. I agree that this is my responsibility and this is being done. Sorry if you misunderstood why I am seeking a grant or weatherization funds, its not to buy paint, carpet, and etc. which is our normal activities before a tenant moves in.
        The local IC does inspect our apartments before refugees move in and we correct anything that they see needs to be done. Also, they do supply furniture, food, kitchen items, mattresses and bedding. They try and do a good job with the limited funding they have. I find them to be compassionate and caring people. They also help the refugees find jobs as well. We have a good working relationship with them. They call me as well if there are any issues and we address them quickly. I see vans picking up refugees to take them to work and even on Saturdays taking them to different activities or programs. The management and support staff that I deal with are dedicated people.
        I help the refugees because I want to, again they are God’s children and it’s my obligation to help them. This is not being done for a “profit”, that is not my goal.


      2. Jack, I think you are not the landlord in question. We are talking about the refugees in Bowling Green who are currently in filthy apartments without furniture and household items.

        Were you contacted by the International Center to speak out? It’s nice that you treat the refugees in your building well but it is a deflection as to the issue of refugees in other buildings who are living in squalor. The issue of those refugees is what needs to be addressed here. Thanks.


  8. No matter what you want to say, what you want to believe, how you want to spin the truth or the lies…the involved parites (International Center, Landlords, Refugees, City and State Officials, Journalists, and independent parties) are looking into the situation and have looked into the situation for a long time. It is easy to make assumptions. It is easy to decide in your mind that an agency should be closed because of perceived failures. If this were true, the entire TANF system (which does have serious errors), food stamp program, and every other Human Service program would have to be shut down. It is easy to claim to know what is going on in Bowling Green. It is easy to make claims that are based on nothing more than assumptions and misunderstandings. The truth is that thousands have been resettled by the International Center of Bowling Green for over 30 years. The truth is that all of them have become productive members of society, either in Bowling Green or have moved to other communities. Many have commented that the Center should be providing an unlimited number of services on a limited budget. The truth (read their previous financial statements) is that they do not have an unlimited budget, but they stretch that money as far as it can go. They are doing by far better than most resettlement organizations nation wide. Their work rate is 90% of refugees are working by the 80 day mark. The national average is 30%. Refugees everywhere are more than happy to work for $9.00/hr. No refugee in Bowling Green, Kentucky is living on the street. No refugee is living in filth. It takes time to assimilate. It takes time to learn a new language, new customs, and new standards of living. Refugees are given a chance at a new life, but they must learn to live that life. You cannot hand everything to them. But you can make sure they have the basics to start their new life, make sure they are taken care of, and continue to help them past the 90 day mark, which the International Center is doing. If you want to know the truth, go there and see it for yourself. Do not make emotionally charged claims and twist the reality of what is going on in Bowling Green. The mark of an unintelligent argument is one that bases its claims on incomplete truth.


    1. No one seems to be spinning anything. You obviously haven’t been in the apartments or else you would know about the filth, the roaches, the rodents, the lack of furnishings, and the household items. If you had been there you would know that refugees stood outside for an hour and a half and no ride arrived as the International Center promised. You would know that no one has showed these refugees how to use the stove and other basic appliances. All the denial in the world is not going to work.

      The complaints about lack of funding falls on deaf ears for those of us who know that the State Department is giving the refugee agencies $900 PER REFUGEE, as well as the dozens of other grants from other government agencies.

      Refugee contract requirements are being broken and the community is not going to stand for it. Tax money has been provided to help these refugees yet it’s not getting through to them. People are suffering.


      1. Actually, I have spent time in the apartments of the Burmese refugees and other groups. I have seen the conditions. I have seen that the families have a couch, a table, chairs, enough bedding for everyone to sleep, enough towels for everyone in the family, pots, pans, etc. Do you know what they had in the refugee camps… nothing. They are given a refrigerator full of food to begin with. Busses from the International Center run Monday through Thursday. They do not run on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays unless their is a special even such as the Bowing Green International Festival to help promote the assistance of refugees in Bowling Green. Never are they promised at any other time. The Burmese community have purchased several vans and a bus in order to provide transportation for themselves (assimilation). You are correct that most refugees have never seen a stove. However, the international center case manager do take the time to help instruct them. However, this time is not truly needed because every refugee community has within it those who have had more time to assimilate and to take care of each other and teach each other. This is how assimilation takes place. They learn over time just as we do.

        As to your claim that the federal government agencies $900 per refugee, this is not completely correct. The government gives every individual $450 dollars and the agency $450. The agency then uses that money to acquire an apartment, purchase a specific list of necessities and amenities, purchase clothing, purchase food, and help start their new life. Rent ranges from $450-600 dollars in Bowling Green. They must pay for connect fees for utilities and basic services. This money can disappear very quickly before they ever arrive. As for this belief of numerous other grants from government agencies, you are mistaking. If you will read the previous financial statement of the International Center, you will find that the International Center only receives a few (less than 5). Two of these grants are financial matching grants to help the refugees start savings accounts to become productive members of society. All taxpayer dollars that are designated to help the refugees go directly to the refugees. If you would like to speak to the Director of the Center, I am sure he would be more than glad to answer any questions.

        I have seen the conditions that you claim are horrible and infestations. The refugees themselves are learning to accept a new culture, and are more than glad to be out of the refugee camps. Where are you getting your information from? Mine is from the International Center, the USCRI website, The BG Daily News, Independent audits, and having spent a great deal of time with current and former refugees.


      2. I’m getting my information from the volunteer who has been in the apartments. I think you have been in some different apartments. The apartments we are referring to have filthy carpeting and walls from previous tenants, roach and rodent infestations, and with little or no furniture, kitchen utensils, or towels. One family had ONE thin towel to share between all the members of the family. The International Center has NOT showed the refugees in question how to use the stove, oven, dishwasher, or washer & dryer. Another Burmese refugee may come in later and show them, but it is the responsibility of the International Center. They should have showed them these things the day they arrived and were driven to their apartments from the airport. It only takes a few minutes. After all, the refugees need to begin using these appliances immediately.

        I said the State Dept. gives $900 per refugee. It matters little how that divides between money given directly to refugees or used by the agency to provide the refugees with minimum required services and material items. That is just seed money. Refugee agencies are REQUIRED to raise their own money to supplement this. There are literally DOZENS of grants available via HHS’s office of refugee resettlement, whether or not the International Center has only applied for or received five. More money is available via county government grants, private foundation grants, etc.


      3. The Director and staff must be doing their job. The goal is that the small amount of dollars be the seed money as stated and the community support the rest of the program. The IC, as proven by Mr. Jacks letters proves that many people in the community are involved in the resettlement process in BG. As a resident, it is plain that the community is more involved and supports the centers goal more than ever in the history of the center. I bet this has something to do with the success rate. Maybe this time the critics are going after something that will backfire in their face. Obviously, by the writings obviously coming from the community, it already has.

        As for the Center not having taught the refugees in question how to use a stove or a blender or whatever else you feel they need to use, instead of complaining, you seem to have the opportunity to teach them. You do it. Instead of trying to destroy the efforts of an agency who has proved that it is positively working to help resettle refugees, why don’t ALL OF YOU use the passion you all show in trying to tear them apart and pointing out supposed discrepancies (Which none of it is supported by any evidence except speculation… prove me wrong and present real evidence) by helping them better use the few meager dollars they actually receive to better help the refugee populations. Or is your goal simply to make a lot of noise with no real intentions to help others out? Either continue this banter, or actually do something to help. I do.

        Signed-Just another individual trying to make this world better.


      4. It’s interesting how first-hand accounts of neglect are dismissed as “speculation”.

        As for all the so-called “writings obviously coming from the community”, I don’t think so at all. I think you are friends of the International Center and this is an organized response. Do you think simple denials are going to work? Don’t you think we have paper, pens and cameras and can document the extreme neglect of these refugees? Also, while the International Center is currently warning all the refugees not to speak out, or else, some of them are brave enough and will speak out as to how they have been treated.

        This so called accusation of people trying to “tear down” the International Center is nonsense. You people need to own up when people complain about your failure to provide basic services. If you receive any consequences whatsoever, which is unlikely, it will be due to your own failures and not the members of the community and the refugees who are speaking up, whom you are blaming.


      5. Well good thing what you “think” doesn’t really matter Mark. As I said in my last posting and it is evident by what you continue to say, you are more interested in trying to make noise than you are in actually helping people. You have proved my point. (Read before you open your mouth and spew out more unintelligent garbage). If you want the center’s financial statements, they are public record that I found from a link on this site. Look for yourself instead of having everything handed to you. These posts are nothing but an annoyance and a way for people to talk and not act. I actually do work every day to help my community grow and to hear and protect the voices of those unheard.

        P.S., I speak on my own accord. I am someone who is sick of people like you. All people like you want to do is raise some conspiracy notion that has no basis in reality. Quit watching movies and get out and help people.


      6. Thank you very much but I help refugees on a regular basis so I know how some refugee resettlement agencies treat refugees. You might want to help these refugees who have been placed in such awful living conditions without basics, rather than complain about those who speak out. What is your affiliation with the International Center?


  9. Don’t you think that LANDLORD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CONDITIONS OF HIS APARTMENTS, If the apartments in bad condition, then it’s better to contact Landlord, it’s his job to change the carpet and fix the problems and call to pestcontrol.


    1. Yes, it is. But refugee resettlement agencies may NOT place refugees in apartments that have these conditions. They must also assist refugees with dealing with the landlord if these conditions arise later on. Yet it is apparent that these conditions were there when the resettlement agency placed the refugees in the apartments.


  10. If you guys have a problem with this agency, you need to speak to them directly rather than basing all of your conclusions on second-hand interpretations of newspaper articles and shoddy, amateur research. It is hard to take any of your xenophopic conclusions seriously unless you present more of a holistic, balanced portrait of the situation. Dr. Jay Gabbard-Western Kentucky University


    1. Dear Dr. Jay, You know nothing about me or us, and I doubt you know anything about the refugee resettlement bureaucracy in the US either. You have completely discredited your comment by suggesting that our conclusions are “xenophobic.” That is what people like you have done for too long —- when you don’t like the opinion, you attack the person’s character.

      And, damn your “balanced portrait!” For too long this whole program has existed with refugees in many cities being left in the lurch because the portrait has always been a one-sided one that assumes the agencies are all just driven by pure and good intentions and that their actions follow suit. Our job is in fact to now balance that deceptive portrait.


    2. We don’t seem to have second-hand interpretations as someone who has been in the apartments and spoken to the refugees is directly commenting here. It is not the job of members of the community to reform refugee resettlement agencies. Obviously if they don’t care about neglecting their own refugee clients then sitting and talking to them about their bad ways won’t do much to change them.

      It is prohibited to place refugees in unsanitary or insect/rodent infested apartments. At a minimum refugees must receive basic furnishings (they can be used) and household items. The federal government supplies $900 per refugee just to get started, with many more grants for other services. This program is a public-private partnership and refugee resettlement agencies are not allowed to depend on government handouts alone.

      This abuse of these refugees is 100% unacceptable, talk of holistic portaits and balance not withstanding.


  11. Yana, you should feel fortunate the International Center was there for when you arrived in the USA. I see otherwise with the Karenni/Burmese. Please help me here if I am totally blind or totally ignorant.

    English is well known as being the easiest language to learn. I taught myself Spanish in 2 months before I went to Central & South America solo. I didn’t have any difficulty because I was on my own lesson plan.

    Why are the refugees in the International Center only there for four hours a day, Monday – Thursday only. Why aren’t they there 8 hours a day to learn the neccessities for survival in the USA, mainly English? Why didn’t I see any English workbooks in any apartments. The International Center can get them library books, cassettes, DVDs, or CDs to learn. The illegals Latinos are allowed to receive free English lessons at many locations.

    In order to thrive in the USA, we all know English is a very important to know.

    Let’s see, I arrived on Friday, October 30th, 2009, at 1:00pm and stay in the complex with the Karenni people until Sunday, November 1st, 2009. The whole time I was there, I never saw another person volunteering their services.

    What saddens me even more, Sunday, November 1st, at least 35 Karenni were waiting outside at 10:00am. I ask why, and the ones I asked didn’t know what they were waiting for. Eventually around 11:30am, they all walked back to their apartments. It seems they were waiting for a bus that never arrived.

    So these people are alone within the apartment dwelling for four (4) full days? Oh sure, they could walk; although what do you do in the pouring rain and the winter snows are coming soon!

    If they did attempt to walk to buy groceries at the market, how are to carry them back when most mother’s carry their babies and it’s a good 1-4 miles from their apartment?

    I totally agree, people need to keep their homes clean. However, to learn the correct way, I do think you need to put refugees in clean & sanitary apartments. It you walk into a trashy, filthy apartment, it will stay that way. If you put them in a freshly cleaned apartment they’ll be afraid to get it dirtied.

    I am still ashamed from what I saw 2 weeks ago. If you want to sponsor refugees, you need to help them from the start. You can’t just toss them aside without any guidance.


    1. HI, may be it’s better to go and talk to Internation Center, talk to their Director, talk to other refugees, and maybe TOGETHER we can makes differents and to found another way… better way to serve those peoples. Thanks.


      1. Yana, why don’t you go and talk to the agency and see if you can get them to transfer these refugees to sanitary apartments and give them basic items? Maybe they will listen to you if you had such a good relationship with them as one of their refugee clients.


    2. English is the easiest language to learn? That’s hilarious!

      For who? Babies maybe. Not for adults. Not for adults who are pre or non-literate in their L1. Not for adults who have had no formal education.

      And you expect them to be there full time learning English? Students without this type of classroom experience could not handle that amount of classroom instruction. Not that they aren’t intelligent, but most tire out after an hour and a half.

      Workbooks and other materials would only work for higher level students. Unfortunately, the people who need the most help wouldn’t know what to do with the workbook if you gave it to them to take home. Many beginner students need face-to-face prescriptive instruction.

      I’m just trying to explain why their program might be designed the way it is.

      But I do have a question. First you say English is the easiest language to learn, then you say you taught yourself Spanish in 2 months. So how long does it take to learn English? A few weeks?


      1. I think Cmflo made it clear that some refugees have been here for 6 months and still don’t know any English. Does that sound like a reason for someone to see if they are enrolled in ESL or not?


      2. Ah yes. I see now.

        cmflo said they had been in the US for 6 months and didn’t know English. I am not surprised. I have a student now from Afghanistan, who has lived in the US since 2002 and doesn’t speak any English. It’s not his fault and it’s not his teachers’ fault either. It’s not easy for adults who have never had formal education to learn a new language in a classroom setting.

        cmflo then suggested that the center demand the students learn English within 2 months. That is a completely unrealistic expectation for the reasons I mentioned above.

        Again, I am just sharing some insight.


  12. I think we’re pretty safe in assuming that Dust is an employee of The International Center or USCRI. USCRI and it’s affiliates have a long history of playing dirty to cover up their neglect of their refugee clients. They have no compunction about lying and they especially like to make personal attacks on any member of the community who comes forward to report what they have seen. It’s a strategy called “dirty up” the messenger to divert attention away from the neglect and abuse of the refugees. The US State Department WILL assist USCRI in covering up what he community finds. People need to contact the Congress and the media when they find refugees being abused like this.


    1. Hi everyone! I came as a refugee as well a years ago and my family also received a services from Internation Center, what are you talking about? Who is going to learn Language in 6 months???? would you???? even attending ESL at WKU you’ll never learn English in 6 months, after 10 eyars I still working on my English(as you can see) Internation Center picked up my family from airport, founded apartment, yes they did not buy a leather sofa or cherry finish bedroom, but everything we need were there. They took us to HD for shots and physical, all medical follow ups, School enrollments, jobs, public assistance, clothes and plus transportation, they help us to get a drivers permit and write our 1st bank check and so on and so on. You are saying, that refugees making only $9.00, who’s making more at this time? you are lucky if you have a job while people loosing theirs everywere. Please don’t make jungdments on Kareni refugees only, go and check all others from Russia, Bosnia, Vietnam, Cuba, looks at their houses that they bought and cars they driving. And let me tell you that people have to keep their places clean all the time in order to not have a cookroaches. Thanks.


      1. Yana, why do you think that just because you received good treatment or services a year ago that everyone else must be getting the same now? I don’t understand the logic of that. Shouldn’t we listen to a volunteer that has seen the current conditions in the Kareni refugees’ apartments with his/her own eyes? Secondly, I think it’s well known by most people that some buildings are heavily infested by insects and/or rodents. Not everyone gets an infestation just because they don’t clean up. If you are really a refugee why don’t you give other refugees the benefit of the doubt.


  13. It was you who said “they would be better of in Burma” not me honey. You are the one who is protesting and wants to stop refugees for coming to the US, not me.
    Kareni are great people and I love them to death. I have lived with them and have been to the jungle and because of that (what i saw there)I want them here not there. Whose fault is that educated refugee (every refugee not only Kareni) can’t work decent job once they come here. It takes years for the comunity to trust “different than them” people, and when it does they offer them decent jobs. Until that happens they will be judged by “whites” and other who (like you) think they are better of in their own country, than here in the US.


  14. Dust, please let me know when you have the opportunity to walk through these apartments. Even stay for a few days. I’ll find a family you can stay with. They are filled with no furniture, kitchen utensils, towels, etc. See if you can survive if you had a family living the way they are.

    I can say, I actually did walk through over 15+ apartments in 2 locations. These people have nothing. I see depression on the faces due to culture shock and no counseling.

    The International Center have many Karenni people that speak very good English and they still can’t get a job since they can’t prove they have a high school education. How can they can an American High School education when they been living in a refugee camp from 12-19 years. They learned their English from their own Burmese refugees teachers in the camp.

    The ones that speak excellent English should have a job helping the International Center and the schools to help the children with translation and the adults to help fill out paperwork and counseling due to culture shock. Though, they can’t get a job…even at McDonald’s or Walmart.

    I lived with them in BG for 3 days. They do know how to use the stove, oven, dishwasher, washer & dryer. It took me 5 minutes to show them how to use a microwave. The are civilized people. I did ask several of the Karenni if the International Center came out to show them how to use these items and they told me; “no!” They said it wasn’t that hard to learn.

    I would like to drop you off in the jungle to see how long you could survive. The Karenni can live in both societies.

    When you rent an apartment, usually the walls are freshly painted, new or cleaned carpeting, etc. These apartments have never been cleaned in years and they keep putting another refugee family after one moves out into the apartment without clean the place!

    I met the Burmese in 2003 and been visiting them since 2008. I actually spend weeks at a time living with them in the refugee camp. I saw the suffering they endured from the Burmese & Thailand Army. I came back filled with sorrow and the love for these people. They do not deserve when America has nothing to offer them.

    I wonder why some of the Karenni have been here for 6 months and still don’t know English. Isn’t there ESL training at the International Center. The International Center should demand they know English within 2 months.

    It’s late here otherwise, I could go on.

    “acorcoran”…I have received emails from the Governor, Senator, Congressman of Kentucky and many other places that they are going to look into the situation down in Bowling Green…Please email me privately.


  15. Dust are you saying that C. Flores is lying about what he/she saw? What is the motive? Also, the strange thing is that the conditions reported are the same that many of us have seen in other states and which have been reported in other newspapers around the country.


  16. You can teach but you can not force anything on anybody. Everyone choses how they want to live. I repeat, all appartments are in very very good conditions before any refugee family moves in, furnished and all. If family wants to live that way, even when you teach that is not ok, it is their choice. And let’s be honest, how many American families are living in terrible conditions?


  17. Dust, but isn’t it the job of the resettlement agency to teach refugees how to live in America—isn’t that part of what they are being paid for?


  18. This is so untrue. All refugees have been receiving furniture, dishes, clothing and food. Kareni refugees can’t take care of themselves, they do not have basic living skills and that is why they live in those conditions. Iraqi refugees don’t have that problem and they have been treated the same way as Kareni.


  19. Contact only your Senators and US Representative. No one else involved in the governments’ refugee resettlement program will do anything. The government contracts that USCRI signs to help refugees aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Would you believe that putting refugees in apartments that are filthy, roach and rodent infested is prohibited? It doesn’t matter, they do it anyway and the State Department tolerates it. That refugees are supposed to receive clothing and furniture? The requirements are ignored.

    Better yet, contact the media!


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