FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Sightings of an immigration enforcement transport bus Thursday night caused panic for the immigrant community in Northwest Arkansas. People thought ICE raids could be imminent, and many posted on social media to warn their family and friends. It turned out to be a false alarm.
“Our Hispanic community and immigrant community in general has been on pins and needles as a result of events that have happened over the last several days in El Paso, Texas, especially, ” said Mireya Reith, the Founding Executive Director for Arkansas United.
The poultry industry in Northwest Arkansas is similar to the one in Mississippi, and undocumented immigrants are worried about facing a similar ICE raid. Agents raided chicken processing plants in Mississippi.
People took to social media to warn of possible raids.
“Got word people from AERT down the street from tyson off huntsville should not go to work word is ice is at tyson,” read one individual’s Instagram story.
Others messaged over Snapchat.
“My friends (sic) mom works at a chicken factory in Fayetteville she called him said ICE is there. They just git (sic) there from Weddington (sic),” one man said in a snap that was posted on Twitter.
The bus had “La Salle” markings on it, which was the site of a detention center. Reith said members of the immigrant community lost sleep and had a swift reaction when the bus was spotted at the Comfort Inn in Fayetteville.
“There were individuals and organizations following that bus and actually sat on it while it spent the night at a hotel here in Fayetteville,” Reith said.
Senator Bart Hester (R) said he agrees with President Donald Trump’s decision to initiate the ICE raids seen over the last month. He said border security is important for safety.
“I think our president is charged with following out the law,” Hester said. “He was very clear he was gonna do that when he was elected president, and the people of America elected him, and he is absolutely following the law.”
Hester said he sympathizes with undocumented immigrants who fled from dangerous situations in their home countries. He said it’s still important for the country’s laws to be recognized.
“If you’re not here legally, I’d recommend going back to where you came from and starting the process legally,” Hester said.
Reith said it’s important for the immigrant community to understand its rights.
“Work with someone to research the facts before going to social media, because the social media is unfortunately only feeding the panic,” Reith said. “There were several folks that turned these sightings and photos and spread it on social media.”
Reith said she understands the panic but reiterates that everything in the state thus far has been false alarms.