by Max Brantley
He says the United States is filling up with immigrants who do not respect the law or the American way of life. He refers to Latino groups as “the tribalists,” saying they seek to impose a divisive ethnic agenda. Of his many adversaries, he says: “The illegal alien lobby never changes. It’s the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party joining forces with the Chamber of Commerce, the far left and the Democrats in an effort to expand cheap labor and increase voting for the Democratic Party.”
The issue looms in Arkansas. Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, newly embarked on a U.S. Senate race, has vowed to fight the bipartisan immigration bill. After making war and despising everything Barack Obama stands for, opposition to a gradual welcome for immigrants is one of Cotton's top issues. He thinks it plays well in Arkansas, where Pryor has joined the bipartisan coalition on changing the law.
Ernie Dumas wrote about the Arkansas-flavored immigration debate in the Times this week.
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.
Arkansans should care more, Dumas notes. Immigrants, though relatively small in number here, have been a proven benefit to the economy, paying taxes well in excess of services they receive according to a Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation Report. They spend a lot of money here. (And they aren't all Latinos working in agriculture and trades. 17 percent of the state's physicians have foreign roots.)
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?