CONTACT: Rita Sklar, 501-374-2842 or -2660, or cell phone 501-960-5036
Ashley Simmons Pagés, 479-283-3791
Little Rock, March 10, 2010 -- The ACLU of Arkansas has stepped up its fight against racial profiling and anti-immigration policies in Northwest Arkansas with the recent hiring of its first Immigrant Rights advocate, Ashley Simmons Pagés.
Pagés, a long-time Arkansas resident, will help the affiliate respond to racial profiling and other rights violations committed against immigrants and people perceived as immigrants in Northwest Arkansas. This is the first time for the ACLU of Arkansas to have staff outside of Little Rock.
“We have seen that when local law enforcement tries to enforce federal immigration laws, the rights of both citizens and non-citizens are violated, because they are denied employment, harassed by police and sometimes arrested because of the way they look or speak,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “Having Ashley on staff will help us respond to those violations and ensure that local authorities are adhering to the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process to every ‘person’ in this country, as the U.S. Constitution states.”
As the Immigrant Rights advocate, Simmons Pagés will aid the ACLU in its advocacy, litigation and education activities. She will establish relationships with members of the immigrant population and organizations that work with immigrants as well reach out to law enforcement, the legal community, media and general public to facilitate communication and understanding among those groups.
“My goal is to get to know more people in the immigrant community and, with the help of community organizations and sympathizers, establish an Immigrants’ Rights Network that is prepared to protect the rights of immigrants in areas identified by the community,” Simmons Pagés said.
Arkansas had the fastest growing Hispanic population nationwide between 2000 and 2005. About half - 51 percent - of Arkansas’ immigrants were undocumented in 2005. The national statistic is 29 percent.
Reports of immigrant abuse in Northwest Arkansas have included unlawful detentions, detentions for an unlawful length of time, racial profiling, denial of bail and higher bail rates. From jails and prisons, there have been reports of physical abuse and denial of basic needs. Arbitrary raids have also become an issue in that area of the state.
While Hispanics are the fastest growing immigrant population in Arkansas, there are also sizable numbers of Marshallese, Vietnamese, Turkish and other Asian, European, African and South American immigrants in the state.
Simmons Pagés is from a Mexican-American family and was born in Mexico. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Global Affairs from Hendrix College and has studied at Pontífica Universidad Católica in Valparasio, Chile, St. Louis University and La Universidad Panamérica. She is a certified interpreter for English and Spanish and has previously worked for U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln and for the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock.