Governor Asa Hutchinson (Rep) of Arkansas announced that the state of Arkansas will still allow refugees into the state. The announcement came as a response to an executive order from President Trump that gave states the right to refuse to allow refugees.
Hutchinson has come under fire from supporters of Trump’s order since his announcement on Dec. 23, 2019, and recently released a defense in which he challenged his community to consider the situation differently. “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,” Hutchinson told lawmakers. “I challenge you to help resolve fear, have the facts, and to talk about those.” Hutchinson also told a panel of GOP lawmakers that the refugees would be thoroughly vetted and that he believes they will benefit Arkansas economically.
Hutchinson’s comments were not only met with controversy, but also with surprise. In 2015, the governor was opposed to allowing Syrian refugees into the country. Hutchinson now claims that he has altered his opinion: “If we say no to them, then we lose the talent, the entrepreneurship, and humanity of those who love America. Yes, they can go elsewhere, but Arkansas will benefit from their presence.”
Sophomore Spanish major Triniti Horner agreed with Hutchinson’s announcement: “I believe that refugees should be allowed into Arkansas, as well as America in general. The United States is probably one of the most well-off countries in the entire world, and it is our duty not only as Americans, but also as Christians, to help those that are faced by oppressive governments that do not care for their citizens’ needs.”
While Hutchinson has offered his support for refugees, there are some who wish to take advantage of Trump’s executive order and bar refugees from resettling in their state. According to Time Magazine, “Hutchinson’s comments came days after Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of neighboring Texas, said his state would be the first under Trump’s order to no longer accept new refugees.”
Students for Refugees, a student CAUSE ministry on JBU campus, said that they support Hutchinson’s advocacy for refugees. The mission for Students for Refugees is quite simple: to utilize resources available on campus to partner with local non-governmental organizations in Northwest Arkansas in order to assist resettlement and advocate for refugees. They also focus on helping students use their specific degrees or disciplines throughout this process.
In the past, Students for Refugees has worked with Canopy NWA, a refugee advocate and resettlement group, as well as many organizations on campus, such as the Leader Scholars Institute and other CAUSE Ministries. In response to Hutchinson’s decision, Students for Refugees wrote letters of thankfulness and encouragement to the governor.
Jina Kim, one of the ministry’s co-leaders, worked with Canopy NWA to offer support of Hutchinson. “I contacted Canopy for an idea for the CAUSE Serve Day. Canopy replied that writing encouraging letters to Governor Hutchinson, other officials, and refugees who have been actively supporting refugees would be very helpful,” Kim said. “As Christians, we need to acknowledge those who work hard among us (1 Thess 5:12-13), and Gov. Hutchinson especially is getting a ton of backlash as he continues to resettle refugees in Arkansas. The letters were sent to their offices (and home address for the refugees who raised their voice to support the Governor).”
According to Kim, four people participated in letter writing. “As one of those participants of letter writing, I think the governor’s decision is critical, especially when the number of refugees being resettled in the U.S. has been drastically decreasing. I hope he continues to support refugee resettlement and Canopy’s work in supporting them.”