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.