Sign Our Petition!

Canopy NWA and AUCC will be meeting with Senator Tom Cotton's office this month to ask him to remove his support of the RAISE Act. We would like to present him with a petition signed by Arkansans across the state to let him know his constituents do NOT agree with this proposed immigration bill that seeks to cap refugee resettlement at 50,000 and cut legal immigration in half.

We believe that this piece of legislation runs counter to our values as Americans and as Arkansans. We agree with Senator Cotton that our immigration system is in dire need of reform, but these reforms will hit our community where it hurts most: in our economy, in our families and in our churches.

For more of our thoughts on why we disagree with this proposed bill, scroll down to see our previous update. 

Sign our petition HERE!

Joint Statement by Canopy NWA and Arkansas United Community Coalition in response to the RAISE Act

We at Canopy NWA and Arkansas United Community Coalition (AUCC) strongly oppose the RAISE Act, sponsored by one of our Arkansas senators, Tom Cotton. This proposed piece of legislation would hurt our region’s economic development, separate Arkansas families and close our doors to the world’s most vulnerable. It does not reflect our shared values as Americans or as Arkansans, and as his constituents, we are calling on him to withdraw his support for this bill.

This legislation looks to cut all immigration in half, place a permanent cap on refugee arrivals, destroy the family reunification visa program and favor wealthier, higher skilled immigrants over the diligent, working class people who form the backbone of our nation’s economy today. Senator Cotton must realize that what he is proposing will directly hurt his region and his state—our state.

First of all, the RAISE Act would permanently cap the number of refugees the US could protect each year at 50,000. In the midst of the greatest refugee crisis of our time—over 65 million people are currently displaced worldwide—this number is far too low. Our country has always been the global leader in welcoming and caring for refugees. Now is not the time to cede our leadership and turn our backs on our world's most vulnerable. Additionally, placing a legal limit on annual refugee arrivals takes away authority and flexibility from the executive branch to respond to changing global pressures.

Most importantly however, reducing the number of refugees directly impedes the good work of hundreds of Senator Cotton’s constituents. Over 500 Northwest Arkansans have signed up to volunteer with refugees through Canopy NWA. 15 area churches have formed refugee co-sponsorship teams to welcome and mentor newly-arrived refugee families. The RAISE Act would permanently reduce the number of refugees our community is able to serve at a time when our community has shown an eagerness to welcome and empower our world’s most vulnerable.

Second, this bill would destroy the family reunification visa program in favor of a “merit-based” program. This would directly impact thousands of Arkansas families who have worked hard and waited years for their turn to apply for their family members.

And finally, this bill will have an immediate impact on Northwest Arkansas’ economy. A recent study by Engage NWA found that immigrants accounted for 42 percent of our region’s economic growth from 2009 to 2014. This boom has benefited all of us: for instance, our housing values increased by $759 million in that time. In 2014 alone, immigrants contributed $3.1 million to our region’s GDP and $131 million in state and local taxes. Making up 15 percent of our labor force, immigrants helped created and preserve over 2,500 manufacturing jobs in the last 5 years—but these types of industrious, working class people are the kinds of immigrants that this bill seeks to keep out. Immigrants have helped our region, and by extension our state, to prosper. We do not understand why Senator Cotton would propose a bill that would jeopardize all that.

This piece of legislation runs counter to our values as Americans and as Arkansans. We agree with Senator Cotton that our immigration system is in dire need of reform, but these reforms will hit our community where it hurts most: in our economy, in our families and in our churches.

Both of our organizations are asking for meetings with the senator during the August recess to discuss legislative actions we would like to see him take toward meaningful immigration reform.

We urge our neighbors in Arkansas to call Senator Cotton’s office and express their opposition for this bill:

Please call Senator Cotton at his Springdale office: (479) 751-0879 OR at his Washington D.C. office: (202) 224-2353 and state…

My name is “YOUR NAME” and I am calling from “YOUR CITY”. Please tell the Senator that I am profoundly disappointed in his sponsorship of the misguided and counterproductive Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE Act). It is deeply un-American to shut the door to refugees and immigrants. Please ask him to remove his sponsorship of the bill.

 

 

 

Arkansas United Community Coalition (Arkansas United, AUCC) is an Arkansas, immigrant rights nonprofit based in Springdale that is dedicated to empowering immigrants and their communities through leadership development, coalition building, the promotion of civic engagement, immigration service navigation and building welcoming communities. Founded in 2010, AUCC boasts a network of over 200 immigrant organizers and over 400 active volunteers in 17 communities across Arkansas. AUCC currently maintains immigrant resource centers with partners in Springdale, Fort Smith, Little Rock, DeQueen, McGehee, Monticello and Jonesboro.  For additional information, please visit www.arkansascoalition.org or call 479-871-2168.

URGENT! Raise YOUR voice against the RAISE Act!

Day of Action: Raise Your Voice Against the RAISE Act

This week, CRSA members met with the staff of Senator Tom Cotton to discuss his co-sponsorship of S. 354, the RAISE ActThis bill aims to cut legal forms of immigration in half over the next ten years. It will do this in multiple ways:

  • Limits refugee arrivals to 50,000 per year.

  • Reduces the number of family-sponsored immigrants allowed, cutting the list of family ties to only include spouses and unmarried children.

  • Ends the diversity visa program, which welcomes 50,000 new Americans annually.

We need you to help convince Senator Cotton to remove his name from co-sponsorship of this anti-welcoming bill! 

Call Today: (202) 224-2353

Please take a moment today to call Senator Cotton's office to ask him to remove his name from this bill. Remind him that you want to keep Arkansas, and the United States, as a welcoming place for all refugees and immigrants.  See below for more info.

Sample Call:

Not sure what to say? Here is one example to work with. As always, we suggest you use this as an example to build your own call.

“My name is ________, and I am a constituent from _________. I am calling to request Senator Cotton to remove his support from S. 354, the RAISE Act. I believe that immigrants and refugees make Arkansas, and our nation, stronger. Thank you!”

This travel ban has ripped a family apart

Last week, a big, beautiful Congolese family arrived in Northwest Arkansas. Their co-sponsors met them at the airport and brought them back to their cozy, furnished apartment. They showed them the meal they had prepared, the toys they had gathered and the chocolates they had left on their pillows. The family smiled and thanked them. They were really happy to be here, they said-- but they were clearly troubled. "Our brother, John, he was left behind in Africa," they told the co-sponsors.

"Our family is incomplete."

We aren't sure what happened to prevent John from traveling with his family. We are looking for answers, but it seems like there may have been some sort of clerical error that delayed the purchase of his ticket. The family was told that it should be easily solvable, that he should be able to join them within a week. This was, of course, still deeply troubling to the family, but they decided to go on without him. John is 22 years old, and while he has never lived on his own or provided for himself, they knew he could take care of himself for a week. So they came to Northwest Arkansas. Since they've arrived, they've been to the movies and played in creeks, they've ridden their bikes on our trails and they've enjoyed exploring the excesses of our grocery stores. But they've never stopped talking about their son. When we ask them how they are doing, they say: "We are incomplete."

But it should be OK, the error should be corrected and he should be here any day-- or so they thought. 

Today, President Trump's refugee travel ban finally takes effect.

Starting today, no more refugees will be permitted to travel to the US unless they can prove that they have a "bona fide relationship" here. This has been interpreted to mean that those with parents, siblings, spouses, fiances or grandparents can still travel-- but cousins, nephews and nieces do not count. This distinction might seem fair, but for this family, it is devastating. 

You see, John is a nephew/cousin by blood. He was adopted into this family at a very young age and has been raised in this family-- but legal adoptions are not customary in the rural area where they lived, so they have no formal documentation to claim him as a son. So on paper, he is a nephew, a cousin. Not "bona fide." Not eligible to travel. Banned. 

"Our family is incomplete."

When we tried to explain this to the family, they were distraught. We had to tell them that their son was not a real son in the eyes of the government, that he was considered a possible threat to our country, that he was temporarily banned. His brother cried. His father looked down at his feet. "Why?" they asked. We didn't know what to say. 

We tried to encourage them. "It's just 120 days. That's not so bad." But they shook their heads. "No, no," they said. "He does not have anyone to care for him. He is alone. How can he stay alone for 4 months?" As they thought about it, they grew more concerned. "His medical clearance is about to expire," his brother told us. "If it expires, he will have to get a new one before he can come." This family knows just how long you have to wait to get in for a medical exam-- months. Sometimes the better part of a year. 

This is why this travel ban is so harmful. It tears apart families. It abandons sons-who-don't-count to fend for themselves in refugee camps. It leaves boys without their brothers.

This is not who we are as a country. We don't tear families apart-- we build them up, and they in turn, build us up. We tried to convince the family of this. "America is so glad you are here," we told them. "And we will be very glad to have John when he comes." They nodded, but the brother still had tears in his eyes, the father still looked at his feet. 

"We are grateful to be here," the brother said slowly. "We are grateful for all that has been done for us. But we are incomplete. I don't think we can truly be happy here until we are complete again." 

Why I believe in refugee resettlement-- even as a fiscal conservative

Mark Kessler is the Senior Director of Operations for Save the Children US and a former Walmart executive. He is a member of Canopy's volunteer advocates team and serves on a co-sponsorship team as well. He drafted the following guest post on World Refugee Day, June 20. 

Today, on World Refugee Day, I want to take a minute to reflect on the plight of a group of people that I feel are really misunderstood by a vast majority of the US population.  I ask you to drop your pre-conceived notions and consider that you might not have the whole story.  By the way, I am certain that I do not have the whole story – and I have biases – but I have looked into this more than anyone else I know that does not actively work with refugees for their day job. 

I will focus on the US Refugee Admissions Program (RAP) because it is the most concrete and it is what we have to deal with – at least right now – in the US.  In full transparency, I’m not sure that I would have all the same viewpoints if tens or hundreds of thousands of people washed upon our shores.  Not because I find it different morally, but rather practically.  I’m not sure I can reconcile how to process, secure, and integrate that many people in a manner that provides stability to our communities and treats the refugees with dignity.

I want to make three quick points on this debate:  all refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees; refugees are subject to “extreme vetting”; and refugees are not a total drain on our economy.

Of the roughly 1,000,000 legal immigrants to this country last year, less than 85,000 were refugees.  These refugees were part of a less-than-one percent subgroup of refugees that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) selected for third-country placement, based upon six criteria.  The US then has its own criteria it applies to those who have met the UNHCR criteria – which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – to determine if a refugee has a “well-founded” fear of persecution based on religion, political opinion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. 

According to the Department of State website, “No traveler to the United States is subject to more rigorous security screening than the refugees the U.S. Government considers for admission.”  This screening process usually takes 18 to 24 months and involves biometric collection; security screenings through four agencies, including the FBI; an interview by DHS with further biometric collection and verification; and a medical check.  They also receive cultural orientation classes.  If they get flagged anywhere along the way, the process starts over or they get disqualified.  This seems to me to be the definition of extreme vetting.

Though they are not initially self-sustaining financially, refugees tend to fare as well as the average US general population after a few years.   Frankly, there are a lot of variables in this equation and each group of refugees – the composition of which changes broadly over time – has its own subset of relative success or challenge thriving.  In Northwest Arkansas, the refugees that have resettled here have done exceptionally well.  The average time before getting a job is 50 days, with an average starting pay of $10 per hour; all of the families have been financially self-sufficient within 90 days; most of the families were off of all federal assistance within six months; and several of the families have begun volunteering, helping as translators and babysitters for newly arrived families.

In the end, it is your choice whether or not to support people fleeing from violence, intimidation, and/or other abuses.  To me, it’s a moral choice to support them. From a moderately conservative fiscal perspective, it’s not a home run, but it is acceptable and more than I had bargained for (pun intended) before I looked into it.  If nothing else, I just ask that we all read, learn, and think before spouting off an opinion.  I also ask that you consider walking alongside this unique group of individuals and families and welcome them into our community. 

Join us for World Refugee Day!

On Tuesday, June 20th, we want our Canopy community to join voices with millions worldwide in advocating for refugees.

We need your help!

The proposed budget makes cuts to the funding that refugee resettlement agencies receive, as well as funding that helps refugees abroad.

We are encouraging everyone to CALL our elected officials to let them know that our community stands FOR welcome and stands WITH refugees. Let them know about our amazing community that has opened their arms and welcomed refugees home. Encourage them to stand for what is good and for what is right. 

Consider making a $5 donation. 100 people giving $5 will ensure that a refugee family in Northwest Arkansas has a roof over their head for 1 month. What if we raised enough money to give them a roof over their head for 3 months or 6 months?

Share our Facebook page with your friends!

YOUR voice matters. OUR voice matters. TOGETHER we can make a difference. Together we can send a message that Northwest Arkansas welcomes refugees home.