LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The figures are staggering. The number of children with foreign-born parents has quadrupled since 1990 in Arkansas and while more than 88 percent of them are American born citizens, a study conducted by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families says they lack proper health care and education.
The AACF is calling them the 'Critical Generation', a driving force behind our state's economy but with higher poverty and school drop out rates, children of immigrants are in need of a helping hand from the state.
On the third floor of Union Station in Little Rock, Brett Kincaid with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families works to reach out to Arkansans in need.
"Our population is really diversifying and we need to be at the head of that curve in order of providing services and providing all the basic needs that we provide native born kids," says Kincaid.
A report released Wednesday by the AACF says children of immigrants are in need of more help to become productive citizens.
"We know that poverty, unfortunately from generation to generation, gets passed on. In order to break that cycle, we need to have these kids become more educated, more access to schools and to health care than they currently have," says Kincaid.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families say three key changes to state policy could drastically improve the lives of children of immigrants. First, extend ARKids health insurance to all lawfully residing children who weren't born in Arkansas. Second, provide more funding for high quality pre-school programs to help children learn English. And finally, pass a state level DREAM Act that would allow undocumented Arkansas high school graduates to pay in state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.
"What we want to do is get this report in the hands of people that can make a difference. That is largely what we do here is we do the research and then try to pursuade lawmakers to take up the issue," says Kincaid. "They are going to be here. They want to be here and what we need to do is find a way to engage them more directly."
Kincaid also says immigrant families contribute in large portions to our economy to the tune of 3 billion dollars annually of direct and indirect economic activity. Numbers, he says, far outweigh what they utilize in state benefits.