"Migrant-law resolution goes to Little Rock city directors Tuesday"

A city resolution that would not change existing immigration policy but has nonetheless stirred concerns among the Hispanic community will be considered by Little Rock city directors Tuesday.

The resolution, put forth by City Director Lance Hines, declares the city's intent to comply with the requests of the federal government when enforcing immigration laws.

It's a statement of what the city has already agreed to in order to receive federal grants, Hines said. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and other city directors have questioned the necessity of it, and advocates say it has raised confusion and fear since it was first introduced in January.

Little Rock has not refused to cooperate with federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that request the immigration status of people in custody, as some other municipalities dubbed "sanctuary cities" have.

Mireya Reith, founding executive director of immigrant advocacy group Arkansas United, said the weeks since the resolution was introduced in January were "mass panic." Many people assumed that their city-issued municipal IDs were in jeopardy, or that the city was canceling the program.

The resolution does not affect the city's municipal ID program, which started in July. The ID cards are geared toward Hispanic or homeless individuals who do not have legal U.S. documentation.

At-large City Director Joan Adcock said many people had not kept their appointments recently to have their municipal ID cards made. She said she'd heard concerns about the resolution at a recent meeting of Working Together in the Community, a city organization that works with Hispanic residents.

Maricella Garcia, the city's multicultural liaison, said more people than usual had failed to show up to their municipal ID appointments in the past few weeks, but she did not know if it was because of the resolution.

Reith and Garcia said they spent time the past few weeks combating misinformation by holding a community forum and working with Spanish-language news outlets such as Univision and the radio station La Zeta. Reith said it took about three weeks for people to feel comfortable again.

"It doesn't take much to trigger the panic and concern that we saw around the introduction of this resolution," Reith said.

Garcia said she has heard concerns since the program started that the information on the cards would be released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The information on the city IDs is subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, but the immigration agency would request that information only if someone is accused of a crime, she said.

As of Jan. 31, the city had issued 1,116 municipal IDs.

"It's been going really great," Garcia said. "People who have the card or want to get the card should not be worried about what the resolution is going to do to the ID program because it doesn't affect it at all."

Hines has said the resolution would help ensure that Little Rock can receive federal grants that require compliance. He added that the resolution would protect the city from being pre-empted by any state legislation.

"This basically recognizes what we've already agreed to, to accept federal funds as a resolution by the city," he said.

Some grants, such as from the U.S. Department of Justice, require municipalities to comply with federal immigration law. In Little Rock, federal grants have paid for equipment for the Little Rock Police Department, including vehicles, stun guns and software.

In 2015, the city received a $1.9 million federal grant to pay a percentage of the salaries of 15 extra police officers to encourage community-oriented policing. That grant expired Thursday.

Still, other city leaders, including Scott and Adcock, have said the resolution seems like a solution in search of a problem.

"I can share with you as the mayor that upholding the oath of office to abide by the U.S. Constitution as well as the Arkansas state constitution won't ever be an issue, and this does look like a solution in search of a problem," the mayor said when Hines first presented the resolution.

Adcock said she was "100 percent against" the resolution.

"It was unfair to so many people and caused so much fear in the community," she said. "It's not going to solve any problems."

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Cesar MoradelComment