U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains a physical presence in Bowling Green.
Immigration advocates say that many in the local immigrant community are not aware of the agency’s presence, and posts on social media claiming of raids or mass arrests in the area can stoke unreasonable fears.
“Many immigrants already have families established here who are afraid of their legal status being changed from one day to the next,” said Francisco Serrano, a Bowling Green advocate whose parents came to the U.S. from El Salvador in the 1990s seeking political asylum from a brutal civil war.
A small office houses officers with Homeland Security Investigations, one of the directorates organized under ICE that investigates all types of cross-border criminal activity, including drug trafficking, financial crimes and gang violence.
While there are HSI officers here, the branch responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws and ensuring the removal of undocumented immigrants, Enforcement and Removal Operations, does not have a Bowling Green field office, according to ICE spokeswoman Nicole Alberico.
“HSI – and previously the legacy agency U.S. Customs which became HSI in 2003, has maintained an investigative office in Bowling Green since the early 1990s,” Alberico said in an email.
Locally, the federal court system sees the occasional prosecution of an undocumented immigrant who has been arrested for re-entering the U.S. after deportation following a previous criminal conviction, but those cases comprise a relatively small portion of the caseload in Bowling Green’s federal court system.
“ICE does not disclose its specific investigative or law enforcement methods, techniques or tools,” Alberico said. “However, ICE frequently works with local and state jurisdictions throughout the U.S. For example, HSI special agents support and work collaboratively with joint law enforcement task forces to assist with child exploitation investigations, human trafficking investigations, narcotics violations, etc.”
The number of administrative arrests made nationwide by ERO officers for civil violations of federal immigration laws has been on an upward trend since 2016, with 158,581 arrests recorded last year, the highest recorded number since 2014.
Locally, the migrant and refugee population has brought attention to concerns stemming from the Trump administration’s hard-line policy against illegal immigration.
Last year, Bowling Green was one of several cities to host a demonstration against the policy of separating migrant families entering at America’s southern border.
Serrano, whose brother was deported and whose parents faced the prospect of removal last year when their temporary protected status neared an end, was a coordinator and one of the speakers at the event.
His work as an advocate includes referring migrants to the Bowling Green International Center or other Kentucky-based organizations serving foreign-born residents that can inform them of their legal rights.
In that capacity, social media can be helpful for directing migrant populations to important resources, but they can be lost in the noise of other posts that report the presence of an ICE agent but carry few details.
“When families are looking online for resources I highly recommend that they look at credible sources of information as opposed to just an everyday person who believes they’re doing the right thing by saying ‘ICE is here’ because they’ve seen a Homeland Security vehicle,” Serrano said. “There’s a lot of information which may have good intent but all it does is send people into a panic and it disrupts people’s lives.”
Carlos Bailey, a Bowling Green attorney, has worked cases involving immigration rights, representing immigrants who fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which provides a path to a work permit and defers deportation for some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Bailey said the current political climate has made for a more fearful environment for immigrants regardless of their legal status.
“There are people who are DACA recipients who fear that their DACA status is going to be taken from them at anytime and ICE can try to grab them or grab a family member ... when they hear ‘ICE’ it does scare them, and it’s been ramped up,” Bailey said. “I do understand that our borders need to be secured, but the legal process doesn’t necessarily mean to violate a person’s rights. ... My clients fear that they can be shipped back to a country they’ve never known. A lot of my clients grew up here, many of them have fought in our Army and put their life on the line and have been deported or their families have been deported.”
Fifty years after they accepted their diplomas as the last graduating class in the school’s history, the North Warren High School Class of 1969 got together to reminisce and share fond memories of the times that shaped them.
The class gathers every five years for a reunion, but Saturday’s event was doubly special due to being held at the Blanford House, the former Oakland Elementary School building that was recently remodeled into a venue for special events.
Several of the North Warren graduates walked the halls of Blanford House as students, and returned this weekend in what served as the school auditorium.
In its final year as a high school, North Warren had a graduating class of 44 students, of whom 35 are still living.
The Smiths Grove school consolidated with Bristow and Richardsville high schools to form Warren East High School, which opened in the fall of 1969.
Sharron Jones, who was FHA president her senior year, remembered the final year as a bittersweet experience, knowing the high school would close.
“We knew (consolidation) was coming, but we were looking ahead to college and getting out on our own,” said Jones, now a physician in Georgia.
With a small graduating class, most of the alumni knew one another well as students, and reunion attendees recalled the close ties that formed in school.
“Our teachers knew us by name, they knew our families and could get in touch with our parents,” Jones said. “Growing up everybody knew everybody else’s business, and in a small town that could be good or bad.”
By the time the class of 1969 graduated, schools in Bowling Green and Warren County had been desegregated for four years.
Joyce Lively said that she and other black students who helped integrate North Warren were welcomed warmly.
“We had heard bad things, but we were welcomed,” said Lively, who was involved in drill team and is now semi-retired and living in Oakland. “Everyone treated us so nice, they treated us fairly and we became very close.”
Those close-knit feelings extended to students who didn’t graduate after starting at North Warren, like Roger Moulder, who said it was a pleasant surprise to be invited to the reunion.
Moulder’s family sold their farm in the county and moved into Bowling Green, and he finished his high school education at Warren Central High School before embarking on a career in the U.S. Air Force.
Moulder said Hilda Jenkins, his math teacher at North Warren, helped him develop a strong work ethic that served him well after graduating.
“I think of her and her classes often, she was a big influence on me,” Moulder said. “We’ve changed a lot, but here you can look at someone’s nametag and you say ‘I know who you are.’ ”
Mike Hughes said school for him had a “family atmosphere.”
Hughes was involved in FFA, winning a statewide dairy cattle judging competition. He went on to teach agriculture at Warren East High School.
“Some of my teachers at North Warren ended up being my colleagues at Warren East, and they were happy to help me,” Hughes said.
For four decades, the Great White sound has captivated audiences worldwide, with crushing blues-based guitar riffs and a swagger that invokes an emotional high for anyone who listens.
The California-based band – featuring guitarist Mark Kendall, guitarist/keyboardist Michael Lardie, drummer Audie Desbrow, bassist Scott Snyder and vocalist Mitch Malloy – will bring its arsenal of hit songs to the Vette City Motorcycle Music Fest on Saturday, including “Mista Bone,” “Save Your Love,” “House of Broken Love,” “Lady Red Light,” “Rock Me” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
After rising to prominence in the early 1980s, Great White has sold more than 10 million albums and has six Top 100 Billboard hits, nine Top 200 Billboard albums and two platinum albums. In the last four years alone, the group has logged nearly 400 dates across the U.S. and overseas.
After the addition in 2018 of Malloy – an accomplished solo artist in his own right – Great White hasn’t slowed down. The band’s mantra is that the songs are bigger than any one member.
“In Bowling Green, you know, (it) will be the first time this group of people have seen this band play those songs during that time,” Lardie added. “It’s like an encapsulated moment in time. All those elements that make the evening happen and, you know, that’s what keeps it fresh for us.”
Great White will take the Main Stage at 7:50 p.m. Saturday at the Vette City Motorcycle Music Fest at Edge Hill Farm, 13101 Louisville Road in Oakland. The three-day festival features 25 bands, including Jackyl, Puddle of Mudd, Colt Ford, Kiss Kiss Bang, Jasmine Cain, Geneva, Saving Abel, Tantric, Saliva and more.
Great White’s core writing team of Lardie and Kendall forged numerous hits over the years with milestones to complete.
“My favorite things to see is a ... kid on his father or grandfather’s shoulders at a festival, singing the verse lyrics to ‘Rock Me,’ ” Lardie said. “I’m like, ‘How does this kid know this?’ Ya know? It’s because mom or dad or grandpa passed it on down. And that is the greatest compliment to receive as an artist.”
Vette City Motorcycle Music Fest is an all-ages event, with activities including a custom bike show, biker games, a burnout contest, kid zone, food and merchant vendors, downhill Barbie car races and more.
The weekend begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday with a free Kickoff Party at Harley-Davidson Bowling Green, 251 Cumberland Trace Road, featuring performances by Dustin Lee Benefield, Wolf Island Kosmonauts, Gravel Switch and Kyle Daniel.
Visit vcmmf.com for more information and to purchase tickets.
The city of Bowling Green is looking to help an additional 100 people with disabilities pay for housing.
On Tuesday, the Bowling Green City Commission approved applying for 100 additional Section 8 housing vouchers from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development to be specifically used for people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 62, or families with a qualifying disabled person.
Section 8 pays a portion of housing costs based on the voucher holder’s income.
Brent Childers, the city’s director of Neighborhood and Community Services, said such targeted housing vouchers “are the future of the (federal housing assistance) program.”
In total, the city has 616 housing vouchers through various programs, but with a waiting list of about 750, it can take up to 31/2 years to get a voucher.
“We hope the 100 new vouchers ... will help cut down the list of people waiting for assistance,” Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said.
Childers said there are about 170 people on that waiting list who could qualify for the new vouchers.
The city decided to apply for 100 vouchers because the federal government mandates that the new vouchers see at least 80 percent utilization rate in the first year.
A recent housing study the city commissioned showed there is a large demand for affordable housing and housing assistance in the city.
The study showed that more than 45 percent of renter-occupied households in the city are considered cost-burdened by federal standards (pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing) and 25 percent are severely cost-burdened (pay more than 25 percent of their income toward housing).
The data show a “serious, pent-up demand for more affordable housing” in the city, Bowen National Research President Patrick Bowen told city officials in a June city commission meeting where the study was unveiled.
That reality is in contrast to the record number of apartments being built in the city in recent years.
“What we are seeing is an incredible amount of growth in the rental market,” Childers said.
But that has not meant lower rents. Instead, the higher-end units being built have raised rental costs overall.
Housing is “taking more and more of (people’s) income,” Childers said.
With the lack of affordable housing and more than 15,000 people in the city living below the federal poverty level, Bowling Green could use thousands of vouchers, but “we have to wait until the opportunity is available,” Childers said.
It is up to HUD to decide when, and how many, vouchers will be available for cities to request.
Another continuing issue is that some landlords do not want Section 8 renters.
“We continue to have that challenge,” Childers said, adding that the city is willing to explain the program to landlords who may have misgivings.
“Anybody who is interested in working with us ... obviously we’d love to sit down and talk to them,” Childers said.
The city expects to hear before the end of this year whether it is awarded the additional vouchers, which it would give out starting Feb. 1.