Study: Immigrants Contribute to AR Communities and Economy

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - The immigrant population is small, only making up about 5% of Arkansas' population, but it is growing. According to the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation study out Friday, it's having a positive impact on our economy. 'A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas' is a three volume report. Click Here to see the reports.

Sherece West-Scantlebury, CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation says, "The study finds that for every one dollar that is spent on immigrants, in services and alike, you get a seven dollar return in business revenue and taxes."

Researcher's laid out their findings at the State Capitol. Andre Guerrero says it gives great insight and will benefit tax payer services. "In any of our state, county or local governments, you have to serve all residents. And this study shows us that there is a group of new Arkansans that need to be included."

The study shows immigrant's economic contribution in 2010 was $3.9 billion. Steve Appold is a researcher with the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. He says the evidence suggest the immigrant workforce helped Arkansas weather the economic downturn. "Throughout the depths of the recession, the Arkansas state unemployment rate was lower than the national rate."

But there are obstacles. UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson explains, "We're treating kids very well in terms of education K-12 but suddenly when they graduate, we start treating them like they came from half way around the world."

Chancellor Anderson says kids brought to the U.S. illegally pay the price when they turn 18 and can't go to college and pay in state tuition. He adds, "Many of these young people, English is their native language and they don't know another country. Many of them will live here for decades. He adds, "It would make great sense for us to remove the barrier that is the official state stance at this point that says that a child from an undocumented family is required to pay out of state tuition to go to our public colleges and Universities." The General Assembly starts January 14th and there is a possibility it could be addressed there. In past years it's been close to passing. Chancellor Anderson adds, "Everyone would benefit from having a more educated population."

Appold says immigrants are keeping the state young and vibrant. From 2000 to 2010, Latino children increased by 38,000 and non-Hispanic White children decreased by 23,000.

The length of settlement in Arkansas is expanding. In 2010, 57% had lived in Arkansas (or elsewhere in the U.S.) for 10 years or more, compared to 51% in 2000.

Appold concludes, "They're motivated and their children will become an important part of the next generation that will continue to fuel the Arkansas economy."

Researchers also did a complete study on the fact; Arkansas has the second largest Marshallese population, outside the Republic of the Marshall Islands. For that volume, click here.