by Max Brantley
As mentioned previously, the Arkansas Friendship Coalition was announced in news conferences today in Sprngdale and, about now, in Little Rock. It's an advocacy group that will work against punitive state and local laws that target immigrants.
Steve Copley, a Methodist minister, will be chair of the group. He spoke in Springdale with Archie Schaffer of Tyson Foods and in Little Rock with Randy Wilbourn of the Alltel Corp.
The coalition will argue that immigration is a federal issue and that state and local money should not be wasted to fix a problem that is ultimately a federal responsibility. The first expected big fight is against laws, such as those passed in Oklahoma and Georgia, that make criminals of people who provide services or aid to unauthorized immigrants. Rogers is already doing its part, by making the inability to speak English probable cause to check immigration status.
Others are invited to join. Information is available at www.arfriendshipcoalition.org
The founding members of the coalition, in addition to those who spoke, include, from the business community, Warren Stephens of Stephens, Inc., Tommy Fish of the Associated General Contractors, attorneys Graham Catlett and Paul Charton, retaurateur Mary Beth Ringgold, Haskell Dickinson of McGeorge Contracting, Stacy Sells and Michele Bond of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods and Alan Leveritt, publisher of the Arkansas Times.
Others include Rita Sklar of the ACLU, Neal Sealy of ACORN, Ruth Shepherd of Just Communities of Central Arkansas and Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, as well as a student there, Penelope Sur.
Representatives of the religious community include Presbyterian Revs. Gordon Garlington and Howard Gordon; Rev. Michael Mattox, a Methodist; Rev. Wendell Griffen, a Baptist (and also a member of the Arkansas Court of Appeals); retired Episcopalian Bishop Larry Maze and Episcopalian Revs. Lowell Grisham and Joyce Hardy; Unitarian-Universalist pastor Rev. Bob Klein, and Rabbi Gene Levy.