The Garden City Telegram
1/26/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Reality check

Doll's voice will be key with immigration issues.

It didn't take long for John Doll to get a taste of politics in Topeka.

The new representative for House District 123 covering most of Garden City, Doll told listeners at a recent town hall meeting how important it would be to work with others if there's to be progress this session.

Count immigration among key issues ahead — and an area where Doll should make meaningful contributions.

Doll knows there's a range of sentiments among legislators, from representatives of urban districts who view immigration as little more than a drain on society, to those in rural districts who understand the need for such immigration-related policies as allowing agriculture-related businesses to hire undocumented immigrants for jobs they have trouble filling.

As a former educator, business owner and city commissioner in Garden City, the Republican Doll knows the reality in a community where more than 20 percent of residents are foreign born, to include a fair number undoubtedly here illegally who fill jobs most Americans don't want.

He knows that while the federal government must get moving on comprehensive immigration reform — likely a mix of tighter border control, fines and other requirements for those here illegally to seek citizenship — there's also opportunity for meaningful change at the state level. Allowing immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and insurance would be one such opportunity, he said.

Of course, the freshman lawmaker can expect plenty of resistance from conservative Republicans interested in pandering to the anti-immigrant crowd with actions that do more harm than good — repeated efforts to repeal a good state law that allows undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school to pay in-state college tuition if they work toward citizenship would be a prime example.

Kansas lawmakers need to realize and emphasize the importance of policies that would encourage those here illegally to emerge from the shadows and work toward citizenship.

Doll knows firsthand the economic impact of immigrant labor, and how education can and should play a key part in helping immigrants assimilate and gain legal status.

Helping his legislative peers understand that reality, however, will be among his tougher challenges.