By David Robinson
Arkansas News Bureau
LITTLE ROCK - Gov. Mike Huckabee got to speak directly Wednesday with Arkansans who [don't understand] his positions on immigration.
One caller to the "Ask the Governor" radio program on the Arkansas Radio Network accused Huckabee of ignoring the law when it comes to illegal immigrants.
"Did you not take an oath to uphold the laws of this land?" asked Chris, a caller from Little Rock.
"Absolutely," Huckabee replied.
"OK, then why would you turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants invading our country and coming in and basically breaking our laws?' the caller asked.
Huckabee said that he wasn't, and that he believes illegal aliens who try to vote or try to apply for welfare benefits should be arrested.
"If they're caught as illegal aliens, I don't have any problem with sending them back," Huckabee said.
But the governor did not back down on his positions in support of certain benefits for the children of illegal aliens, such as allowing prenatal care for pregnant immigrants and his proposal to offer scholarships to undocumented children who graduate from an Arkansas high school. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This was not clearly described in the article. Huckabee did not want to "offer scholarships to undocumented children." What he actually supported was allowing them to be eligible to apply for college scholarships if they qualified.)
He also criticized Senate Bill 206 by Sen. Jim Holt, R-Springdale, that would impose new restrictions on illegal immigrants in Arkansas. He said the bill could hurt the state's ability to recruit industries based in countries outside the U.S., such as Toyota or Nestle, a Swiss company.
"If we send a message that essentially if you don't look like us, talk like us and speak like us we don't want you, it has tremendous economic repercussions," Huckabee said.
Huckabee also sought to dispel certain perceptions about the benefits that illegal immigrants are getting in Arkansas.
Huckabee repeated to several callers that illegal immigrants do not receive welfare benefits or food stamps or free health care. They do get free public education for their children, but that's required under the Arkansas Constitution, Huckabee said.
"And frankly I think we would want to make sure that their kids were getting an education because an educated society is a society that can work and do a job and do a better job and make money," Huckabee said.
As for allowing immigrants to receive free prenatal care, Huckabee said that's part of his pro-life sentiment as well as that of Amendment 65 of the state constitution, which says that Arkansas considers life to begin at conception.
"I believe that because it's a human life, then by our law and by our constitution even that unborn child is an Arkansas citizen because he or she is going to be born in this state," Huckabee said. "The prenatal care for the entire pregnancy costs less than one-third of what one day in the neonatal unit at Children's Hospital would cost if the child has complications at birth."