Article Written By Iris Stevens
A recent column — “Rockefeller immigrant study flawed” (Bob Hester, June 29) — exposed the fallacies of a Rockefeller Foundation study that claimed that immigration (and by implication, even illegal immigration) led to great economic benefits for our state. An interview with the president and chief executive officer of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Sherece West, by a grant writer for the Jonesboro Community Development program leads to some astounding and implausible claims.
In this interview, posted on YouTube, West gives a summary of how the Winthrop Rockefeller immigration study came to the conclusion that immigrants contribute “$3.4 billion in net economic benefit to Arkansas.”
Both West and the grant writer are so biased that it’s easy to see how they could celebrate the result claimed by the study, “So for every one dollar that is spent by state and local government on immigrants, there’s actually a $7 return to the state of Arkansas.” Really?!
West comes to her conclusion by taking the amount of taxes paid by immigrants and subtracting their cost to the state of $550 million (according to the study), with the resulting benefit to the Arkansas economy of $3.9 billion.
But in the next breath West says that no one pays his way and agrees with the Jonesboro grant writer who says, “Immigrants are not the only people of the U.S. who have a cost; we all have a cost.” Then West says, “Even we don’t pay for ourselves in terms of how much we consume around education, basic goods and services, health care and the like, we don’t pay for ourselves.” If at least some of us don’t pay for ourselves (and several others), where in the world do they think the government gets the money that pays for all of us?
Those statements not only offend all those people who’ve paid a large percentage of their income for years on end for all those entitlements that nearly 50 percent of people receive, but they show how totally illogical these two people are. In one breath they agree that the “immigrants in our state are a net positive economic benefit,” because immigrants pay more in taxes than they cost; and in the next breath they say that none of us pay for ourselves. I guess the meager contributions of the immigrants count, but the major contributions of the citizens don’t.
That West and the Jonesboro grant writer have no concern about the laws of the land or who is here illegally is also revealed in this interview. West brags that 88 percent of Latino men are employed, the highest employment among men in the state. She even admits that 40 percent of immigrants are here illegally — a low number for most reports. So she has no qualms with breaking our laws on the part of the immigrants or the employers.
A couple of legislative sessions ago, when several college presidents testified in favor of allowing illegal aliens to get college instate tuition, a senator asked them one by one at the end of their testimony if they would hire these students after they finished college. Each president had to admit that no, they wouldn’t — because they knew it was a crime to do so.
West says, “There is a path to citizenship. And even with those who are undocumented there is some form of obtaining documentation or some form of a pathway to citizenship.” This statement is either purposely misleading or West is ill informed. They may be able to get an identification number, but the average immigrant here illegally would have to leave the country and get put on a waiting list to come here legally.
West also reveals the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, that has given various grants to Jonesboro (one for $100,000 in 2012 for the North Jonesboro revitalization initiative) funds the Latino Leadership Academy, and that the executive director of the Hispanic Services Center in Jonesboro was a participant in that academy.
According to The Sun, The Hispanic Center recently participated in the Mexican Mobile Consulate in which 400 immigrants (undocumented and documented) from three states came to Jonesboro to receive help with passports and identification cards — identification cards possibly used to file taxes so they can get back thousands of dollars in earned income and receive other benefits.
The Jonesboro grant writer says, and West agrees, “I really think the best way locally is to embrace this population and incorporate this fascinating culture into the overall culture. I really think it adds diversity to a community and makes Jonesboro a cool place to be.” West follows with how the immigrant populations are the entrepreneurs, innovators and “the newer more vibrant population.”
Is it any wonder that these brilliant officials come to the conclusion that immigrants (including 40 percent who are here illegally) are of great economic and social benefit to Arkansas and that grants that include “economic racial and social justice” will be of great value to Jonesboro?
I hope our city councilmen understand how far out of the mainstream these two officials are. Recent polls show 68 percent of Arkansans think illegal immigrants hurt the economy, but only 20 percent think illegal immigrants help the economy.
I hope they will keep this Rockefeller Foundation bias in mind when they accept Rockefeller grants to “revitalize” areas of Jonesboro.
“Rockefeller immigrant study flawed.” by Bob Hester in Jonesboro Sun, June 29, 2013 http://www.wpaag.org/Immigration%20-%20Rockefeller%20Study%20Debunked.htm
Link to the full transcript of the interview of Winthrop Rockefeller CEO and President Sherece West by Heather Clements, Jonesboro grant writer for Community Development Department : http://www.wpaag.org/immigration%20-%20Rockefeller%20study%20interview%20with%20CEO%20&%20Heather.htm
Link to the actual you tube interview of Sherece West by Heather Clements and originally shown on Channel 24 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c24vs2RGs0&list=UUpytGHOKb8gvnYyDjOtE39A&index=7
“Hispanic fiesta, mobile consulate in town today,” May 18, 2013 by Sherry Pruitt.