ARKANSAS (KNWA) — Arkansas agreed to continue accepting refugees, according to a December 23, 2019 letter from Governor Asa Hutchinson to Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo that reads in part, “I issue my consent to initial refugee resettlement for the 2020 calendar year pursuant to Executive Order 13888 and affirm State participation in the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).”
President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13888 in September 2019 — the order allows states to refuse refugees.
Forty-two states have agreed to continue accepting refugees and Texas, so far, has been the only state to decline. States that are in limbo have until January 21 to let the U.S. State Department know of its decision.
Arkansas’ only refugee resettlement site is Canopy NWA in Fayetteville. It’s an independent organization and is a public-private partnership, meaning it gets some money from state and federal and community donations. The agency officially opened in October 2016 and received its first refugee family in December 2016.
In fiscal year ending in December 2018, the agency had an income of $426,406 and assets of more than $230,000, according to Charity Navigator.
Little Rock’s Catholic Charities do reunification ties and only help resettle refugees if they have family members in Arkansas.
In Arkansas, refugees who resettle must live within 100 miles of Canopy NWA to get services. Resettlement locations include Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers. “We have resettled in Fort Smith with official consent, even though it is past the 100-mile radius, because the client had a family tie there,” said Canopy NWA Director of Community Engagement Hannah Lee. “Also, we do plan to reach out to other counties for resettlement locations.”
Under the newly signed Executive Order 13888 official county consent was required — in this case, Judge Wood and Mayors Lioneld Jordan (Fayetteville), Doug Sprouse (Springdale) and George McGill (Fort Smith) gave their consent.
Canopy NWA’s goal is to provide full integration support for five years after arrival. The target date to have this done is 2025, according to the agency’s website.
There are nine staff members, seven are full-time, and there were more than 200 active volunteers in 2019 at Canopy NWA. The agency stays partially funded through the federal government.
Canopy NWA does not know how many refugees to expect, but they’ll know soon. “In the fiscal year 2017 and 2018 57 resettled each year, and 54 resettled in 2019,” said Lee. “It’s reasonable to expect similar numbers.”
Forty-six households have resettled in Arkansas to date, “that means 171 individuals and this includes children have been resettled,” said Lee.
EXAMPLE OF A RESETTLEMENT CASE:
- Refugee flees homeland due to fear of persecution, war, continued conflict
- Lives in a refugee camp; the average wait at the camp is 18-26 years
- The refugee goes through an intense vetting process. If they are coming to the U.S. the process includes background checks and three in-person interviews.
- Once the refugee passes the interview, the United Nations assigns the refugee to a resettlement program (U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, to name a few locations)
- In the U.S., one agency of several, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), decides where the refugee will settle. Canopy NWA is one of six agencies that subcontracts with LIRS.
- Canopy NWA accepts the person (or family)
- Housing is secured, with the majority of refugees living in Fayetteville
- The refugee is flown directly to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, with the flight funded through federal dollars, they are met at the airport by a case manager
- There is a 90-180 day service period. This includes case management services, English classes, cultural orientation. The services are provided by Canopy NWA and Ozark Literacy Council
- The refugee must be enrolled in an English class within 10 days of arrival, a majority do not speak English.
- In Fiscal Year 2019, Canopy NWA spent $5,600 on each refugee.
- Federal funding $2,400
- Private donations/or grants $2,100
- In-kind/volunteer $1,100