Quote of the week
"For decades, our immigration system has been completely divorced from the needs of our economy, and working Americans' wages have suffered as a result. Our legislation will set things right."
— U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), pitching a modified version of a bill he and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) introduced in February to create a "merit-based" immigration system instead of one that emphasizes family connections. The legislation, which the senators presented alongside President Trump in a press conference last week, would slash the annual distribution of green cards awarding permanent legal residence in half, from 1 million to just over 500,000. The legislation would consider immigrants' education, English ability, investments and achievements (Olympic athletes and Nobel Prize winners in particular). The bill is not thought to have much chance of advancing.
Tucker understaffed, under siege
The security staff at the Arkansas Department of Correction's Tucker Maximum Security Unit, where inmates twice have overpowered guards in the last 16 days, is about 24 percent below its authorized force.
Solomon Graves, the prison spokesman, said Tucker Max is authorized to have 208 security positions, but there are 49 vacancies — 45 correctional officers, three sergeants and one major.
Six inmates at Tucker took control of keys and doors of a recreational unit of the prison, in Jefferson County, on Monday, holding three corrections officers in the area with the inmates for several hours. The officers were released without any serious injuries and the inmates involved in the incident were transferred to the Varner Supermax Unit.
The Arkansas Times' Arkansas Blog reported last week that two corrections officers were assaulted and warning shots were fired by a guard when at least three Tucker inmates managed to escape from locked individual holding pens in a recreation area July 22. Prison officials at the time did not disclose to State Police officers who arrived to investigate that shots were fired. That came out only after the Arkansas Times inquired.
Ascent Children's Health Services is under investigation again by the Arkansas Department of Human Services after a child was left unattended on a playground at a North Little Rock daycare center last week. Ascent fired two employees of the daycare after the incident. Two other employees were fired after a similar incident at the North Little Rock facility on June 28. A 5-year-old West Memphis boy died after he was left inside an Ascent van for almost nine hours on June 12. State Rep. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) is the CEO of Ascent and has declined to comment on the North Little Rock incident.
New phase for Delta trail
The Delta Heritage Trail, which when complete will be an 84.5-mile pathway for pedestrians and cyclists along former railroad lines in East Arkansas, moved into a new phase last week as construction began on the southernmost trailhead facility, at Arkansas City.
The trail, of compacted crushed rock, is on former Union Pacific right-of-way from Lexa (six miles west of Helena-West Helena) to Rohwer and then the Mississippi River levee to Arkansas City. Arkansas State Parks is developing the trail in phases, and has completed 35 miles of the corridor: 20.6 miles on "rail-trail" from Helena Junction to Elaine and a 14.4-mile shared-use roadway from Rohwer to Arkansas City.
The trailhead building at Arkansas City is being designed to resemble a train depot and will include a bathhouse, pavilion and office. There will be information about the historic river city and two sites for tent camping.