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In Louisville, Some Fear Travel Ban Will Affect Future Immigration

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a travel ban for nearly all travelers from five majority-Muslim countries may have lasting effects on Louisville's international population.

President Trump proposed the ban in January 2017, shortly after taking office. This is the third iteration of that original proposal; it would ban travelers from North Korea, government officials from Venezuela, and nearly all travelers from majority-Muslim countries Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

In Louisville, the Supreme Court decision hit close to home for Ibrahim Ahmed.

“Today’s decision with the Supreme Court, voted 5-4, was an affront to justice,” Ahmed said. “It’s heartbreaking. We have to live with it, this is the new America now.”

Ahmed is a manager at the World Food Market at the International Mall near downtown. He's Muslim and from Kenya; he said he immigrated to the United States in 2010 through the visa lottery program. He expects the Supreme Court decision will hurt immigrant families in Louisville.

“I know a couple of people, dozens from Louisville itself, who petition for their families," he said. "They have their wives back there, and right now it’s too hard to bring them over. It is heart-breaking.”

Refugee Resettlement Down In Kentucky

The policy may have already affected migrants’ travel to Louisville and Kentucky.

The Kentucky Office for Refugees, the office responsible for coordinating refugee services in the state, said the U.S. refugee resettlement program has been directly impacted by the travel bans.

The agency said this fiscal year, the U.S. is projected to resettle the lowest number of refugees in the program’s history.

As of June 25, 552 refugees have been resettled in Kentucky during the current fiscal year. Of those, 271 were resettled in Louisville. In a statement, a spokeswoman said the Kentucky Office of Refugees estimates 770 will be resettled by September 30; that's 68 percent less than two years ago.

Refugees have recently arrived from two of the countries named in Trump's travel ban: Syria and Somalia. According to the Kentucky Office of Refugees, 10 Somalian refugees and no Syrian refugees have arrived this fiscal year. During fiscal year 2017, 160 Syrian refugees and 357 Somalian refugees were resettled in Kentucky.

Tuesday's Supreme Court decision was excoriated by John Koehlinger, the director of  Kentucky Refugee Ministries, a nonprofit offering resettlement services to refugees. In a statement, Koehlinger said the travel bans deny due process to individuals’ cases.

“From the presidential campaign to present, it’s clear that Donald Trump and others in his administration have engaged in relentless fear-mongering and demonization of immigrants and refugees to restrict their entry to the U.S. on alleged security grounds,” Koehlinger’s statement said. “The evidence of threat, by sober analysis, does not support draconian blanket travel bans based on nationality and informed by explicit statements of religious bias by the President.”

In a news release, the Department of Homeland Security said President Trump’s orders will help protect Americans from “terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals.”

“While we have the most generous immigration system in the world, it has repeatedly been exploited by terrorists and other malicious actors who seek to do us harm,” the statement said, adding the department would enforce the immigration laws.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.

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