Favorite

Arkansas's immigrant future 

Arkansas is an outlier in the big immigration debate, the assumption being that Republicans have it about right: White Arkansans hate the influx of immigrants, particularly Latinos, over the past 20 years and are in no mood to have life made any better for them.

The politics of immigration seems particularly one-sided in Arkansas, as it is nearly everywhere in the Deep South. Only Sen. Mark Pryor in the Arkansas delegation voted for the bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate or favors anything like it in the House of Representatives. Pryor may pay for his boldness next year. His opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, is an extremist even among his Republican brethren on immigration, as on most other matters. Most Republicans, including the rest of the Arkansas congressional team, say vaguely they wouldn't mind passing immigration reform, including a path to citizenship someday, but not one associated with Barack Obama.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, following the wishes of business and farm groups, favored reforms less sweeping than the 2013 Senate bill (Pryor didn't at the time) and she was swamped in 2010, although immigration was the least of her problems.

But neither Cotton nor Pryor is apt to make too much of their differences on immigration because it is just not that riveting in Arkansas and there are more divisive and emotional issues to talk about. Some of Cotton's big-business support likes immigration and backs something like amnesty.

Immigrants make up only 5 percent of the Arkansas population, and all but a third of them are in Pulaski and three big northwest Arkansas counties. Cotton has a pocket of them in his little west Arkansas county but for most Arkansans immigrants are someone else's problem, although many believe that they are paying taxes to take care of all those Mexicans who aren't paying any taxes themselves.

But immigration ought to be a burning question, even in sleepy Arkansas. It is a fateful issue for a state whose economy and social welfare have been affected by even the relatively small numbers of immigrants and will be affected far more in the decades ahead.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation did a deep study of immigration's impact on the state since 1990, and the results defy the refrain that immigration — or what is called "illegal" immigration — has been a great burden on us. If anything, it has been a salvation, adding a little fillip to an economy that made it through the big recession better than most.

Take the question of whether all those people who crossed the Mexican border and settled here have been a burden. The foundation's researchers concluded that indeed the state government budget suffered very slightly. In 2010, immigrants directly paid $525 million in income, small-business, property and highway-user taxes but received services from the state that exceeded their contributions by $31 million, chiefly the public schools but also jails and medical care at state-subsidized hospitals.

Lest you say "Aha," the state budget is not the true picture. The combined consumer spending and tax contributions from immigrants totaled $3.9 billion in 2010. When you subtract the $556 million in government spending on the immigrants, that leaves a net positive economic impact of $3.4 billion. Sure, a good chunk of that would be the spending of well-paid immigrant physicians and surgeons, mostly Asian, who make up 17 percent of the medical profession.

The popular image of immigrants, particularly Latinos, is that they are slackers who somehow mooch off society. At the depth of the recession, 88 percent of Latino men in Arkansas were employed — higher than any immigrant group or native-born.

Of course, they earn less because they typically hold low-wage jobs in manufacturing, construction and agriculture. That leads to the other "Aha." They take jobs other people don't want because the pay is so meager. Unions have fought for tougher immigration laws for that reason: immigrants tend to restrain wages. Unions came around, reluctantly, on the immigration reform bill, which gives "illegal" immigrants a rugged 13-year path to citizenship and toughens enforcement.

The Rockefeller team concluded that the Latinos lowered the wage bill of Arkansas manufacturers by $52 million in 2010, a savings they theorized was passed on to consumers.

But it is the future that ought to concern. While non-citizen immigrants make up only 5 percent of the population, they are 7 percent of workers and the figure will rise sharply even though immigration across the southern border has slowed to a crawl since 2009 and would slow further under the dramatically improved enforcement of the immigration bill.

Children of immigrants make up not 5 but 10 percent of children in K-12 schools and the numbers will grow. Between 2000 and 2010 the number of Latino children grew by 38,000 while the number of non-Hispanic white children fell by 23,000. White family sizes are shrinking and immigrant family sizes are growing. Eighty-three percent of the Latino children, by the way, are citizens who were born in the United States.

They constitute a huge part of Arkansas's economic and cultural future, and we ought to see to it that they have all the educational and economic opportunities that we can give them, for our own sake. Why would we want to keep them and their families in the shadows?

Mike Huckabee saw the light. Where is he when we need him?

Favorite

Speaking of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • And loyal, to a fault.

    • on December 6, 2016
  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation