Right plan

8/19/2013

City officials should support sensible immigration reform.

City officials should support sensible immigration reform.

Garden City Mayor Dan Fankhauser stopped short of signing a letter endorsed by many of his peers across Kansas.

The letter, signed by 32 mayors, urged Kansas' congressional delegation to support immigration reform efforts that allow their economies to grow and protect the quality of life of their citizens.

Fankhauser did say he thought the letter probably was something his fellow city commissioners would support. And that should be true in a community that knows firsthand how the vast majority of immigrants here contribute in a positive way. Fankhauser's decision to seek commissioners' input was a good way to encourage public discussion on the matter, which the Garden City Commission will address at its Tuesday meeting.

The letter calls for our representatives in Congress to acknowledge positive contributions of the state's immigrant population, especially as many businesses struggle with a labor shortage.

The mayors want immigration policies that protect their local economies and labor pools — specifically, a plan that would combine reasonable access to citizenship with adequate border security.

Two southwest Kansas mayors — Syracuse Mayor Joe Stephens and Leoti Mayor Lori Christensen — were among the mayors who signed the letter. In discussing the issue, Stephens noted a good number of their immigrant residents work for dairies or on farms, with many holding hard-to-fill jobs.

Unfortunately, anti-immigrant sentiment nationwide still includes claims that undocumented immigrants ruin opportunities for out-of-work Americans — even though immigrants can't steal jobs others don't want.

While a plan for immigration reform should address low wages and workplace conditions as a way to make jobs more desirable for Americans, many prospective employees still won't rush to positions often held by immigrants, from housekeeping to farm work and other rural chores. The same goes for meatpacking plants, regardless of wages.

Our representatives in Congress should indeed acknowledge business interests in Kansas, and resist bowing down to those who cling to the shortsighted, enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration.

The mayors' letter acknowledges economic realities in Kansas, and also should resonate with the governing body in Garden City, a community that understands immigration as well as any in the state.

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