By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Like both of the other issues Kansas First District Congressman Dr. Roger Marshall touched on at his town hall meeting Monday, immigration seems to affect all other sectors of society in some shape or form.
As with the first two issues, Marshall invited community members to speak about immigration, and Dora and Arturo Ponce, two local Hispanic leaders, took a few minutes to tell what they are seeing locally in terms of the area’s immigrant population.
“We are seeing in our communities that people are scared,” Dora said. “We are scared for these people that they do not have status here and how we try to protect them. We are trying to help these people to be prepared in case immigration takes them, try to protect their kids. We are providing to them attorney letters.”
Dora added what is in the Liberal community, immigrant wise, is also in Southwest Kansas and all of America. She said the wrong immigration policy could have dramatic effects on many areas, including education and business.
“We are building new schools,” she said. “What happens if we don’t have enough kids in those schools? We will have less work.”
Arturo said local immigrants are often living in fear, and some families are even leaving town.
“Here in town, we have many mixed families,” he said. “Maybe mom and dad don’t have legal status, but the little ones have legal status.”
Marshall said he believes now is the time to start talking about some type of immigration process in America in order to create a simpler work visa program.
“I do think we need to secure our borders and not just the southern border, but all of our borders, to stop drugs coming through, to slow down terrorists coming through,” he said. “I very much am in favor of this concept of securing the border, but realize there’s steps two and three.”
Marshall said he feels once President Donald Trump understands the immigration problem more, he will wrap his mind around more.
“I’m told that he is able to change his mind and understand things better,” Marshall said. “I don’t think he understands what a big economic issue this is to Kansas and lots of states just like ours. Immigration’s a complex problem. It’s a national security issue. It’s a social issue. It’s a school issue. It’s an economic issue.”
Marshall is a former physician in his hometown of Great Bend, and he has seen first hand the benefit of having immigrants in a community.
“Half of my patients are probably immigrants by the time I finish my career delivering babies,” he said. “Wonderful families, nothing but positive things to say about the immigrants that are in Barton County.”
Marshall said immigration is just the latest in a series of issues he will tackle in his first term as congressman.
“I’m committed to what’s next, and right now, it seems like it’s health care, then tax policy, then who knows what’s going to be next after that,” he said. “We don’t have a secretary of agriculture in place yet. There’s so much stuff to work on, but I feel your pain. I know what you’re saying. I just wish I could reach across the aisle and say, ‘Here, let’s fix this,’ and do it because it’s the right thing.”
Marshall said getting people to Kansas who want to be here and want to work a more stable status likewise helps secure the country.
“I’ve met person after person,” he said. “Two brothers, one of them left Mexico City with engineering degrees. One came to Kansas. One of them went to Canada. One of them got his citizenship in four or five years. The other one took 13 years.”
Marshall said the nation’s current immigration policy is not only not working, but it is broken beyond repair.
“We need to start over,” he said. “I do think when we get the border more secure, the people that are fighting you and me on this will be more open. It’ll be an easier conversation to have. I don’t see a direct path to victory yet, but that would be my intention.”
Marshall said more than just local people need to help in finding a solution to America’s immigration problem.
“It can’t just be Liberal, Kansas, shouting,” he said. “We need the population of California to Texas to Florida saying, ‘This is an issue. We need to prioritize it and fix it.’”
Marshall concluded his statement by reminding audience members that they are all immigrants.
“My grandfather was the 12th of 13 children, conceived in Sweeden, born in this country,” he said. “I’m not that far removed either. I am the American dream. Many of us in this room are the American dream. I’m sorry for the prejudice of our country. I can apologize and just keep fighting to make it better.”