Supporters of a program that allows undocumented children to stay in the U.S. are urging Arkansas’s Attorney General to change her position on the issue.
A large group of supporters and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program crowded into the Little Rock office of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Tuesday. They met with Carl Vogelpohl, Rutledge’s Chief of Staff, and presented him with a petition organized by the Arkansas United Community Coalition.
The group’s central organizer is Maria Meneses, a college student and herself a DACA recipient. She says that, after trying to meet with Rutledge for a month, she left the meeting with Rutledge's staff member feeling unsatisfied.
“Honestly I was expecting to get answers, I was. Unfortunately that was not the case," Meneses said. "We asked why is she all of a sudden deciding to take away DACA now? Why did she do that?”
Rutledge was one of 10 state attorneys general from around the country and one governor who wrote a letter urging U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end DACA. Meneses says her group is seeking to meet with Rutledge herself, before a September 5 deadline. That’s when states suing the federal government will need to amend an existing lawsuit should the Trump administration choose to not end the program.
The group’s Founding Executive Director Mireya Reith told KUAR after the meeting that she would rather see the fate of DACA in the hands of Congress, rather than President Trump.
“We hope that the president, once again, can let Congress do its job versus taking immediate action that isn’t founded on what our electorate and the constituents of our elected officials actually want."
Reith says Rutledge, who has only met with one DACA recipient previously, should agree to meet with more "Dreamers" to hear their personal stories.
“Our only perception left in absence of a meeting is that she’s pandering to political rhetoric versus trying to do something that would be meaningfully helpful," Reith said.
While meeting with Meneses and the other DACA recipients, Rutledge’s chief of staff said he would be happy to listen to their stories, but wouldn’t be able to speak on her behalf. In a statement, Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said the letter she signed with other Republican officials was about upholding the rule of law. Nevertheless, Meneses hopes that Rutledge will have a change of heart before Congress or President Trump is forced to take action.
“I hope that she sees that we add value, because on top of that, we want to become doctors, we want to become police officers, law enforcers, and we just want to give back and be contributing members of society," Meneses said. "And I hope that she’s able to see that, and that we’re just as American as she is as well.”