Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the keynote speaker yesterday at the National Press Club here in Washington, DC.
As he completes his final term as mayor this year, and as the immediate past president of The United States Conference of Mayors, Mayor Villaraigosa delivered his vision on the main issue that he plans to continue working on going forward—urging Congress to pass immigration reform and create pathways to citizenship, leaving immigration enforcement agents to focus on violent criminals and give those who have not been through the criminal justice system an opportunity to become citizens.
While a direct connection to the arts isn’t obvious, immigration reform is an issue that also impacts artists and nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. For instance, foreign guest artists continue to have problems entering the United States in order to attend their exhibitions and performing events.
Americans for the Arts has been working to amend immigration reform legislation to include streamlining this provision for several years. Here is part of our “Statement of Concern” utilized as part of our Arts Advocacy Day efforts last year:
“We urge the Administration to see that the artist visa process continues to improve. We ask Congress to include enactment of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act in any immigration reform effort. The ARTS Act, as passed by the House in 2008, would reduce the total processing times for O and P arts-related visa petitions to no more than 45 days. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would be required to treat any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within 30 days as a Premium Processing case (15-day turn around), free of additional charge. The ARTS Act has had strong bipartisan support and has been found by the Congressional Budget Office to come at no cost to the federal government. The proposed time frame for processing O and P visas is eminently reasonable, consistent with security concerns, and would greatly improve the climate for international cultural activity.”
Additionally, thousands of nonprofit arts agencies and schools are impacted in being able to fully serve and represent all members of their community when so many undocumented residents avoid participating in programs for fear of deportation. Immigration reform could better help arts organizations work within their communities as demographics rapidly change in many areas of the country.
How would immigration reform impact you as an artist, arts administrator, arts educator, etc.?