LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On Holy Thursday, Arkansas immigrants and advocates banded together for a statewide prayer chain in response to the governor signing an anti-sanctuary cities bill into law Wednesday.
Right down the street from the Governor’s Mansion, a group of his constituents met at the Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church for its service to make a point.
“Immigrants in this state are not only employers, consumers and taxpayers, but they’re humans, right?,” Nora Viñas asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Viñas and other members of Arkansas United Community Coalition argue the new law makes them feel anything but human.
“We’ve had families call in a panic saying, ‘Should we leave the state? Are my kids gonna get taken away? Should I go to work?,'” Viñas said.
The legislation would cut off funding to cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. It would also prohibit cities from preventing local law enforcement from asking about a person’s citizenship or immigration status.
“This law, more than anything, is an anti-immigrant statement,” Viñas said.
On the same day Hutchinson signed bills to license DACA nursing students and give in-state tuition to certain immigrants, he announced his intent to sign the sanctuary cities bill.
“We don’t have any city that would meet the definition of a sanctuary policy city so I don’t see any change in policy going forward that would be disruptive to our society,” Hutchinson told reporters after the ceremonial bill signing on the last day of the session.
Hutchinson had voiced concerns that the bill could lead to racial profiling, while other Republicans disagreed.
“It prohibits profiling,” St. Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, told his colleagues on the House floor.
“The law already exists,” said St. Rep. Marcus Richmond, R-Harvey. “We’re saying in Arkansas, we’re going to follow the federal law.”
While Hutchinson signed the bill under the condition that lawmakers add language in the future to require probable cause before police can ask about citizenship or immigration status, Arkansas United members are taking action now.
“Lawsuits will be filed,” Viñas said.
The organization held a second prayer vigil simultaneously in Springdale.