PROTEST IN FAYETTEVILLE: Roughly 50 protestors braved rain and sleet to protest ICE detaining a Fayetteville artist. Catherine Snyder

Advocates for immigrants are demonstrating this morning outside of the Washington County Detention Center in Fayetteville, calling on the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release a local artist, Alan Rodriguez.

Authorities attempted to transfer Rodriguez to a bus this morning to take him into ICE custody and bring him to a detention facility in Louisiana, but the bus was blocked by protestors and turned around. However, Rodriguez’s attorney was informed today that he has nevertheless been transferred into ICE custody and is on his way to Louisiana.

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Rodriguez, 24, an immigrant and 2013 graduate of Fayetteville High School who has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years, was arrested in September and charged with criminal mischief — charges related to public art, according to advocates. He has been detained in Washington County Detention Center in Fayetteville ever since. These charges were dropped this week.

Under a voluntary agreement with the federal government, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has allowed its personnel to be deputized under Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act to turn over undocumented people booked into the jails to ICE. While in custody, an ICE detainer was placed on Rodriguez, requesting that he be held for at least 48 hours before being released so that federal immigration officials could take him into custody for alleged immigration violations (the ICE hold also precluded Rodriguez from being released on bond while he was incarcerated for almost four months on the alleged graffiti charges). 

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Rodriguez was previously granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. DACA does not confer citizenship or legal permanent residency on its recipients but shields them from the threat of deportation and allows them to legally work in the U.S. Rodriguez’s DACA status had expired and he had recently applied to renew it.

Rodriguez was slated to be taken into ICE custody today and transferred to an immigration detention facility in Louisiana. The bus sent to pick him up this morning, operated by Lasalle, a private prison company that contracts with ICE, was blocked and turned away by demonstrators. However, Rodriguez’s transfer has apparently nevertheless taken place, despite the protestors’ efforts. His attorney, Nathan Bogart, said that he had communicated with the Washington County sheriff’s office today and was informed that Rodriguez was now in ICE custody. (Bogart otherwise would not comment given pending litigation.)

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One of the groups leading the protest, the immigration justice group Equipo de Defensa Al Immigrante, offered more details on Rodriguez in a press release:

Alan is the second youngest of his family and has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years. Alan serves as an important financial and emotional support for his mother and younger brother. During his detention, his family has been under financial strain and left emotionally distraught, fearful for his future.

Alan is currently waiting for his DACA renewal. He is a valued community member who has helped build his community through the arts, mentorship, and community service work. Since graduating from Fayetteville High School in 2013, Alan has devoted his time exclusively to teaching and mentoring other young artists. Most recently, Alan was a leader in creating and developing a community mural.

Florencio Mederos, a spokesperson for the group, pointed out that Rodriguez has lived in the U.S. since he was a toddler. “Northwest Arkansas is what he knows as home,” Mederos said. “He’s a member of the community, he has volunteered to the community, he has given back to the community.”

A number of photos and videos of this morning’s demonstrations, with protestors braving rain and sleet, have been posted by advocates for immigrants on social media. This video depicts an early group of demonstrators who blocked the LaSalle bus at the Comfort Inn where the drivers were staying. Police threatened to arrest them and they dispersed, joining a larger group of demonstrators who then blocked the bus again at the jail.

According to Facebook posts by Clint Schnekloth, a pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, about 50 demonstrators in total gathered at the jail. Schnekloth shared this photo of protestors blocking the entrance gate:

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