Ark-La-Tex In-Depth: Habla Espanol?
Latinos in Southwest Arkansas are a growing population.
While they've made significant political, economic, and social gains within the state, the hispanic community is still facing major challenges in the court system.
The Arkansas latino community has grown from 20,000 in 1990 to about 186,000 in 2010.
Resident Horatio Sotelo moved to De Queen in the late 80's, where he was the only non-english speaking student in his class.
"Back in that time, it was a small Hispanic population. There were no stores like there is now," said Sotelo.
He says now Hispanics are more accepted, they can now find work in farming primarily the poultry industry, shop in several bi-lingual stores and even raise their children in a quality school environment, but in the court system there are still many hurdles to overcome.
"The consequences of immigration impact everything from traffic tickets to criminal cases to civil cases. Immigration and the ability to be here legally is huge," said Robert Tellez, Little Rock Attorney.
Tellez represents a large group of the Hispanic community in Southwest Arkansas.
He's currently working a federal case in which a De Queen hispanic man is alleging that an insurance company failed to provide an interperter during a deposition by the insurance attorney.
"When your talking about legal issues and legal questions that have a direct impact on the result of their case, you have to have it in their own language by someone who is certified," said Tellez.
He says changes to laws providing certified interpreters help, but there is still much to be done.
"We're just scratching the surface, I think having interperters as much as possible, having attorneys that understand immigration consequences will be huge. In the civil realm we're not scratching the surface yet," explained Tellez.
A recent study shows hispanics have made a positive impact on the state by adding about 19 million dollars per year to the economy, but Tellez says they still face pre-conceived notions.
"Another big thing is you can't generalize and say just because someone speaks spanish, they're here without status. There are alot of people here with legal permanent residency," said Tellez.
A study released by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation says that for every dollar the state of Arkansas spent on services to immigrant households, it received $7 in immigrant business revenue and tax contributions in 2010.
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