Canopy Continues to Work with Refugees in NWA after Governor Expresses Commitment to Ongoing Resettlement Efforts
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced earlier this month that he endorses the continued resettlement of refugees in the state.
“Each of you are leaders in your community. You’ve got a choice to make: You can create fear or you can help resolve fear, I challenge you to help resolve fear, have the facts and to talk about those,” Hutchinson said to Arkansas lawmakers. This decision comes at a time when contentious conversations about refugees and other types of immigrants are being had on a national scale.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.”
Hannah Lee, Director of Community Engagement for Canopy Northwest Arkansas, said that refugees are a very specific type of immigrant that is “unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a very well-founded fear of persecution due to his or her identity.”
Additionally, refugees must complete a unique vetting process that takes around two years and includes eight federal background checks, three in-person interviews and a thorough medical screening before they get to the United States.
Canopy is a local refugee resettlement agency that has been welcoming refugee families to the area for nearly four years.
“We are a group of Northwest Arkansas residents working to create a community where refugees are welcomed and equipped with all they need to build their lives,” Lee said.
The organization helps refugee families by securing them safe and affordable housing, connecting them with sponsor teams that act as community mentors, working to enroll their children in school, enrolling them in benefits and helping them find employment. Lee explained that all of this is meant to help the families become financially self-sufficient as fast as possible.
The governor’s announcement is good news for the organization, but Lee said that it won’t change the work Canopy has already been doing. “We’re so thankful that Governor Hutchinson decided to give his official consent, but ultimately his consent does not change anything for Canopy as far as we will continue to do the work we have been doing the last four years.” She explained that the organization is not expecting to see an increase of cases because of the decision.
The organization will continue to successfully help refugees find community and stability. Lee said that 98% of their households were financially independent in just half a year. Once refugees are self-sufficient, they can contribute positively to the economy.
Lee said, “Between the years 2005 and 2014 refugees contributed a fiscal benefit of 63 billion dollars.” She continued to say that 13% of refugees are entrepreneurs as opposed to 9% of the U.S. born population.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SEARCH
Canopy recently announced they are searching for a new executive director.