Little Rock rally backs immigration fix
Hundreds marched Saturday in Little Rock in support of federal legislation to protect from deportation those people who came illegally to the United States as children.
The milelong walk began at Central High School and ended on the steps of the state Capitol, where immigrants, elected officials and others urged a crowd of 300-plus to pressure the Arkansas congressional delegation and state leaders into supporting the proposed Dream Act.
“We are not going to stand with our arms crossed,” said Lezlie Cruz, a junior at Parkview High School. “We have a voice, and we will make it heard today.”
The demonstration was held after President Donald Trump’s administration announced this month it would terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created by President Barack Obama in 2012.
The program, frequently referred to as DACA, has granted two-year work permits and deferred-removal status to people who arrived illegally in the United States before their 16th birthdays.
Trump later called on Congress to pass a legislative fix and said Thursday he was “fairly close” to an agreement that could protect the program’s participants. However, the details of such a deal and its prospects of drawing enough Republican votes are unclear, leaving many people unsure of their status.
More than 5,100 of the nearly 800,000 program participants nationwide reside in Arkansas, according to federal data.
One of them, 24-year-old Luis Vazquez of Sherwood, was able to open a Mexican restaurant, Tortas Mexico, in North Little Rock because of his participation in the program, he said in an interview.
State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock; state Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff; and Little Rock Vice Mayor Kathy Webb addressed the crowd.
A similar demonstration will begin at 11:30 a.m. today in Fayetteville, said Mireya Reith, executive director of the advocacy group Arkansas United Community Coalition.
Demonstrators chanted, “This is what America looks like,” and other phrases Saturday. Many carried banners and signs with messages such as “Dreamers are America.”
“Get in loser we’re protecting undocumented children” was written on the back window of a red Chevrolet SUV parked near Central High.