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Louisville Catholic Charities Expects Syrian Refugees in Kentucky

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Catholic Charities in Louisville will proceed with preparing for refugees from countries dealing with terrorism while state and federal leaders wrangle over the issue.

Kentucky leaders are at odds about whether the state should continue receiving refugees fleeing countries dealing with terrorism. This week, Kentucky’s U.S. senators said they want to “pause” the issuance of visas to Syrians and others. Although Gov. Steve Beshear said Kentucky would accept Syrian refugees, Governor-elect Matt Bevin said he opposes resettling Syrians in Kentucky until "we can better determine the full extent of any risks to our citizens.”

Immigration experts have said states do not have the legal authority to refuse refugees.

According to officials in France, at least one of the people behind the deadly attacks on Friday in Paris was a refugee from Syria.

During a press conference Tuesday in Washington, Senate Majority Leader McConnell said the U.S. government is “limited” when it comes to vetting refugees coming in the country.

“At the very least it strikes me that we need a pause or a moratorium,” he said.

The day before, Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said he would propose legislation that would halt visas to refugees coming from nations with high risks of terrorism.

Still, Catholic Charities of Louisville will move ahead with preparations for the displaced people, “to expect these refugees and find them a safe place to resettle and help them get on with their lives," said Bart Weigel, director of operations at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

The refugees who have entered the U.S. went through a long screening process, said Weigel.

“Generally that process takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months, and there are various layers of checkpoints and cross-checks," he said.

Weigel said his group is helping families who are also under the threat of terrorism. He said refugees from Syria coming into Kentucky and the U.S. are “escaping atrocities and violence, looking for a safe haven.”

“A lot of these individuals have been experiencing the same type of terror that we witnessed in Paris,” he said.

In fiscal year 2015, 63 Syrians were resettled in Kentucky, according to Weigel. He said about half were children under the age of 17. In the 2016 fiscal year starting Oct. 1, 26 Syrians have settled in Kentucky so far.

They are planning for about 200 more Syrian refugees in the state.


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