I didn’t need any convincing. But I nonetheless welcome the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation’s latest report on immigration in Arkansas. Immigrants are a small but growing part of the state’s population who’ve created benefits through community investment and contribution to the economy.
Some key findings:
* Arkansas ranked fourth among the states in immigrant population growth from 2000 to 2010, with the foreign-born population increasing by 82 percent.
* The length of settlement for Arkansas immigrants is expanding: in 2010, 57 percent had lived in Arkansas (or elsewhere in the US) for 10 years or more, compared with 51 percent in 2000.
* Half of Latino immigrants and two-thirds of non-Latino immigrants owned their own homes.
* The Latino immigrant share of workers doubled from 2 to 4 percent between 2000 and 2010. Immigrant Latino men have the highest employment rate of any immigrant or native-born group: 88 percent.
* For every dollar the state spent on services to immigrant households, it received $7 in immigrant business revenue and tax contributions in 2010.
* The economic contribution of immigrants in 2010 was $3.9 billion. The economic contribution of immigrants has grown considerably since 2004, when their total impact was just $2.9 — and should continue to grow as immigrants and their children increase their share of the state’s total population and workforce.
I just heard today of the beginning of a movement to try again for DREAM legislation in Arkansas. It would provide scholarship help to long-term Arkansas high school graduates, despite questionable immigration status. Some say why bother with a new Republican majority. I say why not? Let some of them return home to communities full of hard-working immigrants at poultry processing plants and explain.
PS — I took a family Christmas photo last year at a small Latino business in Southwest Little Rock, our favorite taco truck. Joining the diverse crowd that gathers at Samantha’s is always a happy occasion, not just because of the good food.