Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a teleconference with members of the media today, Nov. 17, from Japan, where he is traveling with Arkansas Economic Development executive director Mike Preston on a state business-recruitment trip.
During the nearly 30-minute long press conference, which AMP joined via Periscope, the governor recapped his meetings in Japan over the past few days and spoke further about his opposition to Syrian refugees relocating to Arkansas.
On the Asian Trip
Highlights of Hutchinson’s time in Tokyo included:
- Meetings with two Japanese companies with a current presence in Arkansas: Hino Motors Manufacturing in Marion and Tokusen in Conway. Hutchinson said Hino’s previously announced commitment of 200 additional jobs in Marion is on target.
- Hutchinson also met with two prospective companies planning expansion and investment in the United States. He didn’t identify the companies, but an itinerary released by the governor’s office ahead of the trip listed a meeting with a “food-processing company.”
“There are good opportunities for Arkansas,” Hutchinson said, explaining that the Japanese economy has been “somewhat sluggish” and many companies would like to get into the U.S. market because of the exchange rates and other logistical issues.
According to AEDC, there are currently 16 Japanese companies with 19 locations in Arkansas employing about 5,300.
Hutchinson travels to Nagoya, Japan, tomorrow where he will meet with members of the American Chamber of Commerce, and on to China on Thursday. A full itinerary of the trip is available here.
On Syrian Refugees
Yesterday, Nov. 16, Hutchinson announced his opposition to Syrian refugees relocating to Arkansas. He said Europe, Asia or Africa are more logical places for resettlement.
“Syria is a war-torn country and the United States will support our European friends in fighting ISIL in Syria and elsewhere; however, this is not the right strategy for the United States to become a permanent place of relocation,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“The hardships facing these refugees and their families are beyond most of our understanding, and my thoughts and prayers are with them, but I will not support a policy that is not the best solution and that poses risk to Arkansans.”
At today’s news conference, Hutchinson referenced his own background in homeland security and questioned the federal government’s current vetting process of refugees.
“I understand fully the difficulty of checking out the background of people from a war-torn country,” he said. “I’m not convinced we have a strong vetting process. A refugee, by definition, is someone without documentation. Whenever you have someone coming in with no documentation, reciting their own history, you can’t query a database and get a sufficient check. You have to have people on the ground that can do investigations – then, it’s not foolproof.”
While relocating refugees is a federal policy, Hutchinson said it is important for governors to express their viewpoints on the issue.
Hutchinson made other points on Syrian refugees, including:
- There are no current plans to relocate any Syrian refugees in Arkansas.
- The Arkansas Department of Human Services is the state’s designated refugee coordinator, and the agency works with Catholic Charities of Arkansas on refugee resettlement. Hutchinson said he would ask DHS to resist any federal government efforts to relocate Syrian refugees in Arkansas.
- Only one Syrian immigrant has relocated to Arkansas since 2012.
- Restrictions on refugees should not be based on religion, as some other Republicans, specifically presidential candidate Ted Cruz, have suggested. Hutchinson said making distinctions based on religion is not his “policy or belief.” Instead, distinctions should be made based on geography — particularly areas “rife with terrorism,” he said.