Thursday, July 28, 2005

The New Southerners

The LA Times has a fascinating article about the booming immigrant population in the U.S. South. Six Southern states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama) have seen their Latino population increase rapidly - in some states the Latino population has quadrupled - since 1990 due to the demand for manufacturing jobs according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Most of the newcomers are young, foreign-born (from Latin America) male immigrants that do not speak English well. Many immigrants are undocumented. But not all of the new immigrants are single young men. The number of Latino children enrolled in school is expected to grow by 210 percent between 2001 and 2008. As this great Edweek series from a couple of months ago demonstrates, the influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants to regions like the Midwest and South causes communities to deal with many new issues, particularly when it comes to education. But as this quote from the LA Times article rightly states, it is essential that communities succeed:
However, education could be the key to bringing the new residents into the mainstream, Guillory said. "We are changing from a muscle economy to a mind economy. We've got to do a better job and close the education gap between the native-born whites and Latinos."
So while the immigrant population in the U.S. South needs better access to education, some lawmakers there are busy shutting the door to higher education. According to this AP article, the North Carolina state legislature killed a bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrants that went to high school in the state to pay in-state tuition at universities (which 9 states currently allow).

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