By Erica Andrade, President and CEO of El Centro
As I sit at the annual UnidosUS 2023 conference listening to the theme “The Power of Us”, I can’t help but reflect on all the issues our Latino communities have been through these last few years. Although struggles and barriers have always been plentiful for our immigrant, undocumented and mixed-status families, it is not an understatement to say the Kansas is at a crossroads. With national stories of the exodus of Latinos in Florida after the passing of SB 1718, the barbaric treatment of immigrants at the Texas border perpetrated by Governor Abbott, and the recent passing of HB 2350 here in Kansas, I can’t help but let anger and frustration get the best of my emotions.
After living through a global pandemic where the work and value of the Latino workforce was on full display, to now having to once again, fight for the rights and dignity of Latino immigrants living in Kansas against the bigotry and hate from the Kansas Attorney General, Kris Kobach who in 2023 is still referring to human beings as “illegal aliens”, is infuriating.
Kansas is not Florida! Kansas does not solely rely on tourism to make our economy work. Kansas relies on its Latino workforce in agriculture, livestock processing, and let’s not dismiss the power in creation of Latino small businesses and neighborhood regeneration. Here in Wyandotte County, we have seen firsthand how Central Avenue, a once abandoned part of Kansas City, is now revitalized because of the Latino businesses and is a place to visit for some of the best food around. The power of us and our community is present now and the potential of what’s to come tells us these outdated, anti-immigrant tactics will only hurt our communities and our state. Our representatives throughout the state need to stop playing politics with the lives of those they should be representing and should learn from the mistakes of others, to ensure Kansas doesn’t suffer economically or morally.