Asa Hutchinson was out rabble-rousing on the immigration question last week. Who says he and Jim Holt aren’t a match?
Not helping matters, Asa’s opponent, Mike Beebe, responded to Asa’s inflammatory remarks by essentially saying “Me too.” Obviously, the governor’s race will bring little in the way of enlightenment or compassion to this issue. Both candidates seem to believe that scourging Latino immigrants will gain votes. They may be right, but that’s an insufficient excuse. Arkansas needs leadership, not demagoguery.
Hutchinson put forth a plan that includes more cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities, ending “catch and release” of illegal immigrants, and a crackdown on hiring illegal immigrants. He announced his plan in Northwest Arkansas, home of the state’s largest Latino population as well as the strongest anti-Latino sentiment. It’s Holt’s home turf.
If implemented, the Hutchinson plan would be expensive and divisive. The state’s jails are already overflowing. Only the most bigoted and/or short-sighted would want to free violent criminals so that illegal immigrants could be incarcerated longer. Setting local police to enforce immigration laws will drive a wedge between the police and the Latino community, discouraging Latinos from contacting the police when they’ve been wronged, while encouraging racial profiling.
Instead of criticizing the substance and the spirit of Hutchinson’s proposals, Beebe said that Hutchinson wasn’t tough enough on illegal immigrants while he was a federal official. Like Hutchinson, Beebe says that he’ll go after the corporations that hire illegal immigrants. Whether either man would actually carry through on this pledge is uncertain.
Whenever the head of a government agency says he wants to run the agency like a business, we know the public interest is about to take a beating. What would Ken Lay do with a pot of taxpayers’ money? What does Halliburton?
Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter has said that the city Convention and Visitors Bureau violated state law by spending more than half a million dollars on marketing projects without taking competitive bids. While promising to obey the law in the future, the bureau’s executive director, Dan O’Byrne, said that operating without bids or contracts gave the Bureau more flexibility and sometimes even saved money. Fresh from what is called “the private sector,” O’Byrne says he wants to run the Bureau more like a business. But government is not a business. For one thing, it’s not run for a profit, which is why government programs like Medicare operate so much more cheaply and efficiently than private health insurers. It’s when government imitates business — rewarding friends through private deals — that its worst scandals occur.