GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — An immigration bill endorsed by President Trump would prioritize highly-skilled, English-speaking immigrants and reduce the overall number of immigrants allowed into the US.
“I relate, because when we first came here, we didn’t know a word of English,” said Garden City resident Angelica Castillo Chappel.
It would have a major impact on southwest Kansas if passed into law. For decades, Garden City has been home to immigrants looking for work.
“From our Vietnamese community,” said Castillo Chappel, “Hispanic community, and now the Somalian community all coming in to the meat packing plant.”
Castillo Chappel did not speak English when she came to Garden City as a middle schooler but says the community gave her family a chance.
“Tyson gave my parents the opportunity to have benefits and have a job,” she said.
Now, she’s a business owner who volunteers her time helping immigrants with their language skills.
Finney County’s economy depends heavily on a workforce of immigrants. The county currently has about 950 open jobs but only 650 people looking for work. A lot of those jobs are labor intensive, and it can be difficult to find workers to fill them.
“Many of those are immigrants because Americans just do not want to do the work that needs to be done in agriculture,” said KSN’s ag expert John Jenkinson, “and immigrants fill that need.”
The immigration bill proposed by Senators Cotton and Perdue would cut the number of new immigrants in half, using a merit-based system that would prioritize skills, education, and language ability.
“This could have somewhat of an impact on some of the dairy and feedlot operations, some farming operations,” said Jenkinson.
He says it’s hard enough as it is to fill jobs in western Kansas.
“There’s already a shortage of workers in rural America, because many folks do not want to relocate to rural areas.”
“The booming in western Kansas is growing,” said Castillo Chappel. “It’s not going to stop. Who’s going to do the job? Who’s going to do the work?”
Congressman Roger Marshall tells KSN he’s in favor granting visas for ag jobs and says now is not the time to reduce the number of green cards granted.
KSN also reached out to Senators Moran and Roberts but have not received any comments on the bill.