You can look at immigration a number of ways.
It can be viewed as among the key reasons the United States grew into a superpower.
It can be viewed on a humanitarian basis, putting into focus our beliefs about how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters.
It can be viewed as a threat to the earning power of Americans who might compete with immigrants for jobs.
It can be viewed as a burden on American taxpayers.
But immigration should not be viewed as an “us vs. them” conflict. Because we are “them,” and they are “us.”
If you live in Kansas, you cannot deny that immigration and immigrants are woven into our culture, our economy and our social wellbeing. That is not to say the world hasn’t changed since many of our grandparents and great-grandparents made their way to Kansas from foreign countries. It is to say that people haven’t changed all that much.
They still want a better life for themselves and their children. They want a safe place to live. They want to work to give their sons and daughters opportunities that were denied them.
Kansas could use more people like that.
As rural stretches of the state worry about declining populations, many counties and small towns are trying to recruit new businesses and residents.
As the state’s labor force stagnates and even shrinks, businesses and economists worry that Kansas doesn’t have the workers that new and growing businesses need.
Across the state — from prosperous Johnson County to the persevering southwest corner of the state — immigrants have helped strengthen our communities and our economy.
Certainly, you can criticize the cost of educating immigrant children. Or you can complain about the burden of paying for health care for those without insurance. But you also should contemplate what our communities would be like without immigrants.
Consider that one in six health care workers in this country was born in another country. Among physicians, 29 percent were foreign-born, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
How much worse would the health care shortages across rural Kansas be without immigration?
From medical care to manual labor, the need for people willing to make Kansas their home is real. Daily life across much of rural Kansas — and rural America — refutes the notion that the nation has no more room.
Back in April, President Donald Trump made that argument, telling a group in California:
“…This is our new statement, the system is full. We can’t take you anymore. Whether it is asylum or anything your want, illegal immigration, we can’t take you anymore. Our country is full …”
Never mind the weirdness of a man who had room in his family for two immigrant wives to claim the whole big country has no room for immigrants. Consider instead that U.S. population growth rates have slowed to their lowest level since the 1930s.
William Frey, of the Brookings Institution, notes the nation will need more immigrants to fill jobs and pay taxes as an aging population makes more demands on a shrinking number of younger Americans.
As has always been the case in Kansas and the United States, immigration comes with a bit of downside. But the upside is much, much greater.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.