April 9, 2006 - Posted at 2:25 p.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ Eduardo Martinez was a laborer on a peach
farm in Texas when the offer came. An American he worked with
approached him and some of his fellow employees.
He asked them is they wanted to get their papers, Martinez
recalls. It was the 1980s, and an amnesty was in effect for
immigrants like Martinez who had entered the country illegally.
Martinez is one of millions who received legal status under a
1986 law. He now owns three businesses in Little Rock, sends his
children to private schools and has taken up golf. He's also a U.S.
Members of Arkansas' small but growing Hispanic population are
calling for Congress to create another legalization program like
the one that helped Martinez.
Demonstrations calling for looser immigration laws have taken
place recently in Fort Smith and Springdale. Spanish-language radio
announcers in central Arkansas are promoting another rally,
scheduled for Monday at the state Capitol in Little Rock.
Critics have said any legalization program would reward
lawbreakers. They have also raised concerns that unskilled
immigrants depress wages and require more state spending on
services like education and hospitals.
An estimated 40 thousand illegal immigrants lived in Arkansas in
2004, and the results of the last amnesty suggest many would
participate in a legalization program. But federal studies of the
last amnesty suggest that, unlike Martinez, many would not learn
English and would continue to struggle financially.
The 38-year-old Martinez says he'd like to see Congress legalize
more immigrants and end divisive debates so everyone can help build
up America. But he says no one should expect immigrants to stop
Martinez said "we're all immigrants in this country and
we're immigrants in the world.''