Though talk of immigration reform has died down amidst recent political squabbles over the federal government shutdown and other issues, immigrant activists continue to push the issue both nationally and locally.
Saturday a number of community organizations, labor unions and faith organizations, plan to rally at the state capitol to protest deportations and support comprehensive legislation that would overhaul the country’s immigration system.
As director of Arkansas United Community Coalition, Mireya Reith is a lead organizer for the event. In addition to the national immigration reform bill, she says sponsors of the rally support other local policy changes as well.
“For example, the lack of a civil and human rights commission, racial justice issues tied to our courts and legal system. There are still policy problems in place, policy problems that can be fixed that are impeding really that full realization of dignity and respect for all Arkansans,” says Reith.
She notes that Arkansas is one of only 3 states in the country that do not have a civil or human rights commission to protect against discrimination in employment, housing and public services.
Reith says one current policy activists will protest is the Secure Communities program, set up by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE.
The program allows local law enforcement agencies to run fingerprints of offenders through national databases to check on their immigration status.
“Because of this, people, for just pure traffic violations—which is a grand majority of them—are finding themselves in deportation proceedings," she says."
"And we just think that this is absolutely not right. And it hits so close to home for us. Individuals who’ve worked with [Arkansas United Community Coalition] since we started this movement years ago, individuals who’ve worked with us even as recently as weeks ago, are no longer here because they’ve been deported.”
Reith says State Senator Joyce Elliot, Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor and undocumented families will be among those speaking at Saturday’s rally. The event begins at 3 pm when two groups of participants plan to march separately from Philander Smith College and Dickey Stephens Park to convene at the Capitol at 4 pm.