On August 6 to 10, Arkansas United Community Coalition (AUCC) took 43 immigrant organizers, called “Change Agents,” and community volunteers to Phoenix, AZ for a five-day trip in order to demonstrate solidarity with immigration reform activists and immigrant civic organizers as well as develop expertise on the implementation of community projects directed towards immigrants, including victims of the recent border crisis. Coming from the Arkansas communities of Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Bryant, Hermitage, Monticello, and McGehee, this trip capped off AUCC’s three-months intensive learning-by-doing leadership training series, or “Change Agents” program, which aims to lift up new immigrant and ally voices in addressing the needs of all Arkansans through community organizing. In its third year of programming, AUCC selected Arizona as this year’s Change Agents site visit both because of the relevance and urgency of the border crisis, including for Arkansans, as well as to study the successful strategies of seasoned partner organizations, such as Mi Familia Vota and Promise Arizona, in unleashing the immigrant vote and building momentum for immigration reform.
“These opportunities left our Change Agents with fresh tactics on community organizing and supporting our state in achieving its full potential through inclusion and integration,” said Mireya Reith, Executive Director, Arkansas United Community Coalition. “We were grateful for the chance to learn from like-minded nonprofit organizations as well as be motivated by the children and families who have become the most recent victims of a broken immigration system that is desperate for reform”.
AUCC’s Arizona trip came on the margin of the August 1st votes in Congress to defund Deferred Action for a Childhood Arrivals and make it more difficult for children to get refugee status in this country. All four Arkansas Congressman voted in support of both of these measures. AUCC hoped that it’s trip served to enlighten Arkansas politicians about local Arkansas support for humane reform as well as lift up the stories of the children, both in Arkansas and Arizona, who have found themselves political pawns in election-year politics.
Arkansas United Community Coalition is an immigrant rights nonprofit (501c3), based in Fayetteville, that has been working since 2012 in 17 communities across Arkansas to empower immigrants and their communities through organizing, coalition building, leadership development and the promotion of their civic engagement. AUCC convenes a network of almost 100 immigrant organizers (Change Agents) and over 400 active volunteers committed to immigrant integration in Arkansas.
AUCC’s “Change Agents” in a year-long program that gives first- and second-generation immigrants, New Americans and allies the opportunity to grow in their leadership and identities as community organizers by taking on community development initiatives. Change Agents has been made possible with the generous funding of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Darragh Foundation, Southern Partners Fund, Center for Community Change and New World Foundation.