Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rep. Jon Woods Investigates Illegal Immigrants

Republican State Rep. Jon Woods of Springdale has asked the Legislature’s joint committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs to study the impact of illegal immigration on various areas of state government. Hearings will begin on August 13, with witnesses from the state departments of Education, Correction and Health. No witnesses are scheduled from the building contractors and poultry companies who hire illegal aliens.

After the failure of the Bush Administration to secure our borders and the defeat of the President’s amnesty legislation, Woods said anyone who thinks it’s only a federal issue “is out of touch on the topic.” The construction industry and chicken processing firms in Northwest Arkansas rely heavily on immigrant labor for low-paid jobs, so it is clearly a political issue in this part of the state. Most employers do not provide health care for their Arkansas workers and their children, so they either go without treatment or turn to state agencies.

The written proposal from Woods calling for hearings acknowledges that there might be costs in providing public education and emergency health care to the children of illegal immigrants working for Northwest Arkansas businesses and corporations. “Illegal immigration imposes a burden on state agencies charged with providing benefits and services to residents of this state, which could hamper those efforts to provide needed benefits to lawful citizens.”

“We’re not doing this to get ammo or to do anything that could be used as threatening, or mean-spirited,” Woods said. “This is something we need to know. We need to know the numbers.” Woods did not indicate whether he would work to increase education and health care funding for immigrant children or would demand increased criminal penalties against corporations and businesses that employ illegal immigrants. Even if he does nothing except get publicity for himself, he will score political points with some of his Springdale constituents. It worked for Jim Holt.

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