GARDEN CITY, Kan. — The Wichita field office for US Citizenship and Immigration Services is meant to serve all of Southwest Kansas, but many immigrants have a hard time travelling the 200 miles. Sister Janice Thome helps some immigrants get to their appointments and she sees them struggle.
“It’s a 15 or 20 minute appointment and then they have to turn around and drive four hours back. Their bosses want them to stay legal but that means a whole day off work,” she said.
“It’s just an inconvenience the whole way around,” said Dodge City’s City Manager Cherise Tieben. “If we could get those services here for those individuals it would go a long way toward keeping their documentation in line.”
Somali and Burmese immigrants are common in the region, along with a large Hispanic population. Garden City, Dodge City, and Liberal combined have as many Mexican Nationals as Wichita or Kansas City.
Tieben says a fear of ICE may skew the official number. “Even though they have the proper documentation, a lot of those individuals have a great fear of ice, and they have the proper documentation,” she said. “We have pressed our federal legislature to increase the mobile services that USCIS offers.”
The plan is to host mobile field offices four times a year, giving immigrants the chance to comply with immigration services locally.
“I know they can’t do everything they do in Wichita or Kansas City, but anything to relieve the pressure here would take away some of the burden,” said Sister Janice.