Statement on the Arts and Immigration
Since President Trump took office, he has taken several actions on immigration, all of which have been designed to restrict immigration and rescind protections for certain classes of immigrants, many of whom work in the arts, culture, and creative industries. While court review has prevented some of their immediate effect, this effort has had immediate and chilling effects on the lives of those who would be impacted, as well as on U.S. citizens’ abilities to live a full and free creative life.
The Proposed Immigration Ban
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to deny entrance into the U.S. by immigrant and non-immigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days. It also suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. Courts blocked the implementation of this order, so the Trump administration revised it in March, narrowing its impact to six nations, and parts of the order began to take effect in June. As the 90 days approached, on September 24, President Trump revised the travel ban to add three more nations to the list and remove one. This new order would take effect on October 18th. The Supreme Court is anticipated to review lower-court rulings, which may further change current action.
Americans for the Arts stands in opposition to policies that limit the free exchange of art, artists, and ideas based on nationality, faith, race, age or ability—and deplores the discriminatory nature of these actions. The restrictions in the travel ban will stifle international dialogue, divide families, and prevent citizens from the transmission of ideas, expression, and speech that are so crucial at this moment. Americans for the Arts has joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court to that effect, and we urge the President to reconsider and rescind this executive order.
The Rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program
On September 5, 2017, President Trump announced the dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era executive action that enrolled 800,000 children who arrived in the United States illegally as minors. Trump provided a six month “grace period” during which Congress may act to address the status of current enrollees, but immediately shut down the acceptance of new applications for inclusion in DACA.
Americans for the Arts urges congressional action to ensure the protection of these young people—which includes upwards of 200,000 people who work or plan to work in the creative industries—their future, and America's future. The revocation of protected status from DACA enrollees, who joined the program in good faith and who are productive and contributing members of their communities, is cruel and should be reversed. We are encouraged by the actions of Congress, where several lawmakers have introduced bills that would create a path to permanent legal status for DACA enrollees.
The Role of the Arts and Immigrant Artists
The arts support dialogue and mutual understanding, and build positive relationships between the U.S. and rest of the world. They help us articulate our own values and beliefs and better understand those of others. Creatively sharing ideas, values, traditions, and other aspects of culture and identity are the very province of the arts.
- According to research commissioned by United We Dream, over a quarter of all DACA enrollees—more than 200,000 people—either currently work in, or plan on going into, creative careers. DACA enrollees, like legal immigrants, are required to go through stringent vetting processes, and the protection of immigrants—including DACA enrollees—is viewed by many businesses as equally or more important than tax reform.
- Rescinding DACA and other anti-immigrant actions directly impact the makers and consumers of American arts and culture. Research by Americans for the Arts indicates that 65 percent of local arts agencies know of cultural organizations or artists who will be impacted by the dismantling of DACA. In addition, 80 percent of local arts agencies know of specific individuals in their service communities—often students—who will experience, or are already experiencing, the negative effects of anti-immigrant policies such as DACA.
- Collectively, the 40 million immigrants in the United States contribute about $743 billion annually to the U.S. economy. DACA enrollees are employed at a higher rate than the general U.S. population, including many in creative careers.
- The free exchange of ideas, including between populations from different countries and ethnic backgrounds, is both a core of American democracy and an absolute necessity to our future. As outlined in a Supreme Court amicus brief joined by Americans for the Arts, live, in-person interactions, such as arts experiences with immigrant artists, cannot be replaced or replicated under the conditions of the travel ban which directly violates the right to receive information under the First Amendment. We believe the same is true regarding the revocation of protection for DACA enrollees.
- Intercultural exchange through programs that improve mutual understanding and appreciation of our cultures, both here and abroad, is crucial to our society and our place in the world. Six hundred and fifty local arts agencies have international programs that involve artists, teachers, students, and donors (42 percent involve artists from other countries). One-in-five local arts agencies have Sister Cities partnerships that employ the arts.
- U.S. cultural destinations help grow the economy by attracting foreign visitor spending, which will be stymied by these restrictions. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that, between 2003-2015, the percentage of international travelers including “art gallery and museum visits” on their trip grew from 17 to 29 percent, while the share attending “concerts, plays, and musicals” increased from 13 to 16 percent.
You Can Make a Difference
- Make your voice heard. We are staying in contact with Congress on this issue. You should, too. Join the Arts Action Fund to take political action. It’s free. We will send you alerts so you can respond to decision-makers fast.
- Inform us of any specific actions impacting the arts in your community as a result of the President’s actions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tell your story about the power of the arts! The former President of South Africa, F.W. DeKlerk, once told the U.S. Secretary of State that it was his cultural diplomacy visit to the U.S. that changed his ideas about a multiracial democracy. He subsequently released Nelson Mandela from prison and they began the country’s transformation. The arts promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- You are not alone. Our national arts partner, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, released a powerful statement of their support for refugees and immigrants. It also includes dozens of statements by mayors from across the country.