FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The Washington County Sheriff is responding to protesters who voiced concerns about a controversial deportation program.
Wearing hoodies and bandanas, protesters at the Fayetteville City Council meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 21) demanded an end to the 287(g) program.
They were asked to leave for disrupting the meeting and being disorderly.
Three law enforcement agencies in the state of Arkansas participate in 287(g), including Washington, Benton, and Craighead County Sheriff’s Offices.
“The city government is discussing the arts corridor and we know they are investing a lot of money, millions of dollars in the arts corridor, ironically while deporting artists of color. So that was the major theme for this demonstration,” Irvin Camacho, Community Organizer with Equipo de Defensa Al Inmigrante said.
Camacho was not at the protest, but says the immigrant community is frustrated.
“In a way it kind of represents where our community is at. A lot of people in the undocumented community live in the shadows. They cant show their faces in places,” he said.
It comes on the heels of the arrest of Fayetteville artist Alan Rodriguez, 24.
“Rodriguez was arrested for spray painting several areas in Fayetteville. Parks and recreation estimate that damage was over $1,600. In the state of Arkansas, it was a Class D Felony,” Sgt. Tony Murphy with the Fayetteville Police Department said.
Those charges were dropped after he paid restitution for the damage.
However, he was turned over to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Louisiana by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office who participates in 287(g).
“We have one option in Washington County where we can take our prisoners, and that is the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. We have no authority over how they do things,” Murphy said.
After a criminal arrest, the 287(g) program reviews people who are not born in this country, and ICE makes the decision on whether or not to place a detainer on them.
“They fill out the same questionnaire. The information is not based on the color of their skin. It’s really based on the country of origin,” Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said.
Those people are from various countries, but most from the Marshall Islands and Mexico.
The charges they face range from driving under the influence to rape.
Helder says he’s not blind to the fact that this is impacting families, but believes it’s necessary.
“We became involved in this program because it had a positive effect of identifying people that are breaking laws in this country that are also here illegally,” he said. “I’m law enforcement and I think this program has been effective in the past. We continually evaluate any program we’re involved in, and if we make that determination internally that it’s not effective and not accomplishing what it was designed to do, then we will certainly re-evaluate.”
287(g) doesn’t make it possible for deputies to go out into the community and check for illegal immigrants.
Camacho says these protests will continue until the county decides to end its participation in 287(g).
“We feel that sense of urgency where if we don’t do anything, our communities, our families are going to be affected by this,” he said.
Statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
On Sept. 20, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged an immigration detainer with the Washington County Jail, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, against unlawfully present Mexican national Alan Rodriguez-Razo following his arrest by local law enforcement for felony criminal mischief and additional misdemeanor charges.
On Jan. 15, 2020, ICE took custody of Rodriguez-Razo after he was released from the Washington County jail. Rodriguez-Razo is in ICE custody and is currently pending removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts.