Louisville hosts Immigration and Refugee Conference as national debate heats up

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Trump administration's decision to enforce a law that separates immigrant children from their families is being felt in Louisville.

More than 350 refugee and immigration representatives from across the U.S. met Tuesday at the Hyatt Downtown Louisville for the annual Welcoming Interactive + Welcoming Economies Conference.

“Louisville represents the best of what our country can," said Rachel Peric, Executive Director of the conference. "As a place, neighbors are coming together to value one another and work together to create a stronger community, no matter how you got here.” 

The conference comes at a time of political tussling over President Trump’s policy over immigration and separating immigrant families.

“Here in our community, there are families with children who have been separated from their parents because their parents have been deported and those kids are here among us in Louisville,” said Lisa Dejaco Crutcher with Catholic Charities of Louisville.

Louisville was chosen as the host because it’s considered a compassionate city, with foreign-born residents representing nearly 20 percent of the city’s population growth. The event is usually hosted in Atlanta.

Several sidewalks at intersections on Main Street have greetings in chalk, welcoming the guests to the conference. Many of the greetings are in different languages.

Bryan Warren with Louisville’s Office of Globalization said Louisville is like many cities when it comes to what it has to offer residents.

“There is other underlying issues and needs: finding affordable housing, getting jobs, getting education and access to health care, the things all residents need in our community," Warren said. "Our immigrant community is really no different."

Organizations like Catholic Charities and Kentucky Refugee Ministries are meeting at the conference to share ideas on how to be more inclusive. To them, it is not so much about what happens in Washington but rather how residents welcome others locally, a national conversation applied here at home. 

“We want to see people thrive here, so it’s really kind of a human discussion rather than, in our minds, a political discussion,” Warren said.

The conference wraps up Wednesday, which is also “World Refugee Day,”

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