Children of Immigrants Important to Arkansas’s Future Economic Success

Children of immigrants important to Arkansas’s future economic success

Ensuring that children of immigrants have the opportunity to thrive will be key to our state’s economic future, a report released today by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) says.


“Critical Generation: Improving the Lives of Children of Immigrants in Arkansas,” makes the case that the state would be unwise to turn attention away from the needs of this group of children, the fastest-growing population in Arkansas. In fact, were it not for growth in Hispanic children, our state’s child population would have declined from 2000 to 2010.


The report says children of immigrants in Arkansas are:


  • Mostly U.S. citizens (88 percent) and mostly Hispanic.
  • Since 1990, growing in population at a rate of 440 percent (compared with 15 percent for children of native-born parents).
  • More likely to live in poverty or near poverty.
  • Less likely to be insured.
  • Less likely to be enrolled in the state funded pre-K program, Arkansas Better Chance (ABC), despite family incomes that are more likely to make them eligible.


AACF calls on the state to do more to reach out to immigrant families whose children may be eligible for quality early childhood programs such as ABC pre-K; to extend ARKids First health insurance eligibility to all lawfully residing children; and to pass a state-level DREAM Act that would allow certain undocumented Arkansas high school graduates to attend college at in-state tuition rates.


“We are not asking for Arkansas to do anything for children of immigrants that we don’t already do for children of native-born citizens,” said Laura Kellams, AACF’s Northwest Arkansas director and the author of the report. “Children of immigrants are more likely to live in or near poverty, so it’s critical to our economic future that we try to break that cycle. We want to ensure that the state recognizes the unique challenges faced by children of immigrants and what it will take to meet those challenges.”


AACF will release the report with a panel discussion of experts at 2 p.m. today in the auditorium at Springdale School District Central Office, 804 W. Johnson Avenue in Springdale. A panel discussion on the report’s recommendations will feature Dr. Jim Rollins, Springdale School District superintendent; Kathy Grisham, Community Clinic executive director; and Rosa Velazquez, executive director of Arkansas Coalition for DREAM.


AACF has worked since 1977 to provide a voice for children who otherwise don’t have much say in how state laws and policies affect their families. Increasingly, that describes children of immigrants in Arkansas, said Rich Huddleston, AACF’s executive director.


“Immigrant families contribute to our state’s economy, and are a net gain overall for our tax system,” Huddleston said. “There is great potential for our state’s economic success if immigrants’ children are able to thrive.”


You can read the full report here.