An Arkansas legislator apologized Thursday for an e-mail in which he wrote that "we are being outpopulated by the blacks" and "we are being overrun" by illegal immigrants.

But state Sen. Denny Altes insisted the comments in the e-mail he sent earlier this month to former Fort Smith Mayor Bill Vines were not racist.

"I apologize and I am sorry if it hurt anyone's feelings. ... I'm sorry if it offended anyone, but I didn't consider it a racist remark," Altes told The Associated Press Thursday.

Altes, who is white, wrote in the e-mail that he was in favor of returning illegal aliens to their countries, but "we know that is impossible."

"We are where we were with the black folks after the Revolutionary War," Altes wrote. "We can't send them back and the more we (anger them) the worse it will be in the future. ... Sure we are being overrun but we are being outpopulated by the blacks also."

Altes said he was responding to an inflammatory e-mail.

Arkansas GOP chairman Dennis Milligan criticized Altes, a Republican from Fort Smith, for the comments.

"They are disrespectful and denigrating to the practical concerns of how we truly address illegal immigration," Milligan said in a statement released by the party.

A spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe said the Democratic governor was glad Altes had apologized.

"Controversial topics require level-headed, civil discussion, not divisive and insensitive remarks, such as those made by Senator Altes," Beebe said in a statement released by his office.