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August 13th, 2020

kristy alonso city commissionKristy Alonso speaks to the Liberal City Commission during its most recent meeting Tuesday evening regarding ICE operations that took place in Liberal Monday. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a story recapping the citizens’ comments portion of Tuesday’s Liberal City Commission meeting and will continue the discussion about recent ICE operations as well as racial relations in Liberal.

The Liberal community was visited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials earlier this week, making many question the situation. Tuesday evening, more Liberal citizens gave their views about the operations to the Liberal City Commission during its most recent meeting. Local citizen Kristy Alonso continued the discussion of the matter. 

“It was mentioned earlier about sanctuary cities, and I think the statistics mentioned should be looked at again because I’ve read how economies actually grow when cities decide to become sanctuary cities and people tend to trust law enforcement even more,” Alonso said. “And it’s been said multiple times how immigration is something that can be taken care of only at the federal level, which I understand, but I have to question what are the local resources you would want to bring either to Liberal itself or the Southwest Kansas area? Because while you as a commission can’t change anything at a federal level, what are some things we can do to support families here and now, whether it’s providing housing or some sort of income? What are resources that can be brought in at a local level?”

“A lot of the things you just talked about touch on people’s individual political affiliations and beliefs,” Liberal Vice Mayor Taylor Harden said. “As someone who leans more conservative, I would never support Liberal becoming a sanctuary city, because it goes against far too many federal laws, and the repercussions would be awful. On another point, I’m also in favor of any type of immigration reform because we absolutely have to have it. We’re a nation built by immigrants and we want to encourage immigration because in order to help reduce the massive deficit we’re facing, we have to allow more people in who will pay taxes and set up a life here and generate revenue. That being said, I’ve never heard of a city our size anywhere that directly subsidized families or individuals looking to immigrate. We have several economic development programs at the city and everyone is eligible to apply for those, but something specifically target for one race or another is direct racism. You want to create resolutions and policies that are universal and take race out of the equation, and I can’t foresee any scenario where you would see any city subsidize any program like that. However, I will do research into that and see if there are cities roughly our size that have programs like what you’ve suggested.”

Alonso then brought the discussion to race relations in the community. 

“It was said earlier that no one in the community has ever been treated wrong based on their race or skin color, but I want to say, that’s not true,” Alonso said. “I and many  of my family and friends have been treated differently here in town because of how we look, and it has to be accepted that there is racism in this community and there are people who judge others based on that, and it’s all part of systemic racism.”

“I would actually disagree about systemic racism actually happening, because while one individual can be caught in a situation and make the organization or entity they work for look racist, I think you’ll find that with the laws of this  nation, as a whole, there is no law on the books now that segregates one race from any other,” Harden replied. “I recently did a lot of research on this because I had a feeling such a discussion would come up and I wanted to be well informed. I would say systemic racism is not a fact and will never be proven to be a fact because there is no entity or federal organization in its bylaws that segregates against people. Systemic racism would indicate there is a law on the books or a bylaw of some sort on record that specifically states it will segregate against one group, and there’s nothing like that which exists. Now, there have been several instances where one individual acted in a manner that made their entity/organization look bad, but that is the fault of that one individual with one point of view, it’s not the goal of that particular entity to set out and attack one particular ethnic group or another. But like I said, there’s no policy racism I’ve heard of in the U.S. in the research I’ve done – but if there is anything anyone’s encountered, I’d be happy to learn about that and hear that story.”

After a few more minutes of this conversation, local citizen Ivanhoe Love Jr. spoke to the commission about racial relations. 

“In my experience, racism is alive and well, and it has been since I came here,” Love said. “I’m very glad this dialogue is happening, it’s very important. If you want to understand how racism affects the people in this room, you must understand what racism truly is and the effects it has on people in the community. I’m here to tell you any statement saying racism isn’t here in Liberal is completely false. This issue touches my heart because I’m a victim of racism and we’ve got to have this dialogue. There has to be a way where meetings like this can happen and people can get together and help our policy makers understand what racism is and the effects it has on every institution from schools to local governments to hospitals – every facet. We need to be part of the solution against racism and if you’ve never been a victim of it, you can’t understand it, and that’s why this dialogue needs to take place. Racism has been here forever, and it’s not going away any time soon, so we need to find a way to be part of the solution.”

“Especially as a member of this commission, I care about everyone in this community,” Commissioner Ron Warren said. “I know a lot of people in the Hispanic community, I talk to them a lot and I know what they’re going through, and it is very frustrating how slowly things are moving at the federal level for any type of reform, there’s a lot that can be done. I know many people who are affected by this and I’m willing to listen to anyone about what they’re going through.”

Local citizen Jose Lara shared his experiences with immigration, as his wife was only very recently allowed into the U.S.

“I very recently brought my wife here from Mexico. It took me two years to do it and the only reason I was able to have it done so quickly was because I was able to get ahold of someone in a senator’s office,” Lara said. “After I would get ahold of them, they’d send an e-mail to the immigration people and all of a sudden that paperwork got pushed through. Then with the next step, I had to again use my contact in that senator’s office and lo and behold, they were able to get the interview set up and she was able to come here. The entire process cost about $6,000 and if she had come here illegally, it would have been about $5,000, so that’s definitely a reason why so many people don’t go the proper route, it costs too much and everything takes way too long. It saddens me the only reason I was able to get my wife here so quickly was because I knew someone in a senator’s office who could help, but not everyone has those resources. We shouldn’t judge anyone at all for their decisions as far as getting here to the U.S., everyone’s story is different.”

“I actually like your approach this evening because what it suggests is at some point in the future, we can form some sort of program to help subsidize some of those costs as families and individuals work to go through the proper process of obtaining their citizenship,” Harden said. “That’s a conversation I think everyone on the commission would be willing to have amongst ourselves, and it’s one we could definitely have with the rest of the community. It’s definitely sad how you have to know someone with pull to get even the first step started, and that’s definitely something, like I said, that needs to be reformed from the ground up.”

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