AFTA - Statement on Immigration and Refugee Ban
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that denies entrance into the U.S. by immigrant and non-immigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days. It also suspends entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
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 this travel ban. We urge the President to reconsider and rescind this executive order.
Implications for the Arts
The executive order addresses only entry into the U.S., and not the expulsion of those already inside the country. It does, however, mean that those people lawfully here—such as artists from the seven countries who travel to perform, exhibit, and speak internationally—may be unable to return to the U.S. should they leave the country, even if they hold a visa that permits international travel. This will have a harmful effect on scheduled performing arts programming and will interrupt the creation and scholarship of work in progress, such as museum exhibitions.
The Arts Improve International and Cultural Relations
The arts support dialogue, mutual understanding, and build positive relationships between the U.S. and global publics. 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.
- Cultural exchanges: 650 local arts agencies have international programs that involve artists, teachers, students, and even donors (42 percent involve artists from other countries). 1-in-5 local arts agencies have Sister Cities partnerships that employ the arts. These programs improve mutual understanding and appreciation of our cultures, both here and abroad.
- Arts as an export industry: U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) increased from $50.2 to $59.5 billion between 2009 and 2013, up nearly 20 percent. With U.S. arts imports at just $35.3 billion, the arts achieved a $24.1 billion trade surplus in 2013.
- Tourism: U.S. cultural destinations help grow the economy by attracting foreign visitor spending. 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.
- Register to attend National Arts Advocacy Day on March 20-21 in Washington, D.C. where you can add your voice in person.
- Inform us of any specific actions impacting the arts in your community as a result of the President’s new executive order. (Email Ruby Harper at email@example.com).
- 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.