FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Protesters associated with the group “Equipo de Defensa Al Imigrante” gathered in front of the Washington County Jail on Friday. They wanted to stop immigration authorities from transporting a Fayetteville artist to a detention facility in Louisiana, where they said he could face deportation.
“To deny people their basic human rights of livelihood and safety, that just kills me,” said Simone Cottrell, a supporter of Alan Rodriguez, 24, the man at the center of the protest. “The most important thing I know about Alan is how much time he has given to youth in this area teaching them about art.”
Rodriguez was arrested in late September for criminal mischief and public intoxication, according to a police report. He and a friend were spray painting graffiti with messages like “Love Yourself Fayetteville” on public property.
Protesters said Rodriguez’s charges were dropped after he paid restitution for the damage, but an agreement between Washington County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the man’s status in limbo.
“They agree to basically do the work of ICE on their behalf,” said Ellen Weintraut, a Fayetteville-based immigration attorney, referencing the program 287(g). “The enforcement priorities that ICE has right now are skewed. They are targeting far too many people.”
Washington County is one of three in the state voluntarily subscribed to 287(g), Weintraut said. Last year, 392 people were held at the county jail because of the program, she said. That made up 3% of the jail’s total population.
Sheriff Tim Helder wasn’t available for an interview Friday, but he spoke about his decision to support 287(g) back in 2017.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to this, but when you break it down, it seems to be the most equitable, simple way to interact with our partners with immigration,” Helder said at the time.
Protesters said Rodriguez was in the process of reapplying for DACA, which he previously had before it expired. They said he’s been living in Fayetteville for the past 20 years.
“His DACA renewal is in the process, and we’re hoping that will keep him here,” Cottrell said.