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Editorials March 3

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Stop HB 1012 HB 1012 is an innocent-sounding measure — “An act to authorize the enforcement of federal immigration laws by certain police officers” — that would have a devastating impact if approved. HB 1012 would allow selected members of the Arkansas State Police and the Highway and Transportation Department Police to enforce federal immigration laws. It would change forever the way that the police are perceived by Arkansas’s growing Latino community, now estimated to number 150,000. The Arkansas Times’ Spanish-language sister publication, El Latino, fields calls every week from readers who have law enforcement needs and problems but are afraid to go to the police. They may have been victims of a mugging, a burglary, even rape. We tell them to go directly to the police and assure them that the police are there to help them, and not to question their immigration status. Even people with documents are hesitant to go to the police, from long years of fearing authority in their home countries. HB 1012 will destroy the fragile bridges that we, the police and others have been trying to build between the fast-growing Latino community and law enforcement. The Latino-born staff of El Latino says that at least half of the 150,000 Latinos living in Arkansas do not have documents. We all wish it was different, but that is the reality. If this bill passes, crimes, accidents and crime-solving information from thousands of Arkansas residents will go unreported for fear of arrest and deportation on the part of otherwise law-abiding people. Ten or 12 state policemen trained in immigration enforcement will ultimately have little effect on illegal immigration, but they will end all communication between the huge Latino population and local police. A vote for HB1012 is a vote against law and order. State Sen. Jim Argue of Little Rock may find himself locked out of the Senate quiet room. He rather egregiously violated a Senate rule this week, the one that says that rich corporations soliciting favors from the Senate are above criticism. Legislators are allowed to malign at will pregnant young women and those who would help them, quadriplegic victims of industrial accidents, schoolteachers who object to religious indoctrination in textbooks, civil libertarians defending free speech, and anyone who doesn’t belong to the National Rifle Association. But speak ill of a corporation? It’s considered common. Nevertheless, Argue lit into Deltic Timber Corp. in a memo to Central Arkansas water commissioners, calling Deltic a “corporate bully” — more than once — and urging the commission to continue defending Central Arkansas’s major water supply against Deltic’s plans for high-profit development. We should all be giving the water commissioners the same advice. Our drinking water is at risk.

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