Leader Blues

Monday, November 19, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Hospitable to Mexicans

It turns out that we have Mike Huckabee, along with taxpayers and a northeast Arkansas developer, to thank for that new Mexican consulate over in Little Rock. Lots of people will not believe that thanks is what the former governor deserves, but we do.

Huckabee never detailed his role and the private arrangements that brought the consulate to Little Rock rather than Oklahoma City, Memphis or another regional hub. That might be because he figured it would be unhelpful in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Hospitality for immigrants, especially illegal ones, is not a virtue in the Republican constituency.

A conservative online journal, WordNetDaily, broke the story this week. It quoted developer Bruce Burrow of Jonesboro as explaining how Huckabee had packaged the deal to subsidize a consular building for the Mexican government as an incentive to capture the office for Arkansas. Huckabee had met with Mexican President Vicente Fox and the consulate came up.

Huckabee said he would try to make arrangements for it to be at Little Rock. He talked Burrow into buying and renovating a building for the Mexican offices at no profit to his company. The project cost $1.2 million. Huckabee put up $10,000 from a state development fund and persuaded the city of Little Rock to pitch in $50,000. The Mexican government leases the building and Burrow expects the government to buy it.

State Rep. Rick Green of Dripping Springs, a Republican critic of Huckabee, saw it as another example of Huckabee encouraging illegal immigrants to come to Arkansas. Border-security activist Joe McCutchen, who had obtained government documents on the project through the Freedom of Information Act, said Huckabee made the deal with Mexico to attract illegal immigrants to give Arkansas businesses cheap immigrant workers.

As governor, Huckabee demonstrated unusual compassion toward immigrant workers. He sought to provide state-funded scholarships for children of Hispanic workers, including illegal ones. He called for compassion rather than hatred.

But as a candidate for president, he discovered a different constituency. He has roused cheers from conservative groups by demanding that the government wall off Mexico to halt illegal immigration and vowed to prevent any kind of amnesty for those already here. The conservative journal quoted the governor as saying that his goal had been to assist Arkansas companies in export-import business with Mexico, not to attract illegal workers, and that the consulate would help immigrants get the proper papers.

To most people, Huckabee need not apologize. He ought to ask those constituencies in Iowa and at the values summits to embrace the country’s better values.