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New Report Reflects Positive Impact of Immigrants in Southwest Kansas

Special to Rocking M Media


A new report, New Americans in Southwest Kansas and Ford County, released [March 2] by New American Economy—now the American Immigration Council—in partnership with Dodge City and Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas, emphasized the crucial role immigrants play in the region’s labor force, business creation, and consumer spending power.

Between 2014 and 2019 the non-immigrant population of Southwest Kansas decreased by 2.2%, while the immigrant population grew by 2.8%. Without growth in the immigrant population, the total population in Southwest Kansas would have decreased even more, by 2.8%.

In 2019 alone, immigrants in the region held $595.4 million in spending power, and paid $112.8 million in federal taxes and $79.6 million in state and local taxes. Despite making up 21.7% of the area’s overall population in 2019, immigrants represented 60.6% of manufacturing workers, 37.5% of construction workers, and 37% of transportation and warehousing workers.

The new report was awarded to Dodge City and Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas as part of the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity for localities to receive research support and/or technical assistance from the American Immigration Council and Welcoming America to improve immigrant inclusion in their communities.

“Immigrants are critical to Dodge City’s economy and are part of the fabric of our diverse community,” said Nick Hernandez, city manager of Dodge City. “The City is committed to serve a hardworking and humble community, who have decided to make Dodge City their home. Their contributions, culture and values do not go unnoticed in our thriving City.”

Dodge City and Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas will present the report at a “Lunch and Learn” event open to the public on March 9 at noon, hosted by the United Way of Dodge City at the USD 443 Administration Building.

RSVP for in-person attendance to uwayofdc@att.net or by calling 620-227-8793. The event may also be attended virtually at bit.ly/UWDCNewAmericans.

“We’ve known intuitively from working with immigrants in our community that they have value in Dodge City and in Ford County,” said Debbie Snapp, executive director of Catholic Charities. “They’re our neighbors, they’re our friends, they work in our jobs, and they’re integral parts of the community. And so, it’s really affirming to see that play out in the data as well. The impact of their economic activity, their spending power, and the financial contributions that they make at all levels gives us a really good baseline for a more extensive conversation.”

Following the launch of the report, they plan to widely disseminate the report to municipal leaders, civic organizations, and business groups in the region.

The United Way Lunch and Learn will also be the launch and release of the Dodge City Strategic Plan for Welcoming and Integration, a strategic welcoming plan was developed by Dodge City’s Cultural Relations Advisory Board and Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas, as well as other local stakeholders and organizations with community input.

“As one of the few rural communities with a majority Latinx population participating in the Challenge, we are thrilled to see how far welcoming efforts have come in southwest Kansas," said Molly Hilligoss, network director of Welcoming America. "We look forward to working with community partners in developing and launching a strategic welcoming plan that combines data for greater immigrant inclusion."

The new research report, New Americans in Southwest Kansas and Ford County, finds:

● Immigrants are helping the region meet its labor force demands. Immigrants made up 21.7% of the region’s population but accounted for 30.2% of its employed labor force.

● Immigrant households support the federal safety net. The foreign-born contributed $90.7 million to Social Security and $22.2 million to Medicare in 2019.

● Immigrants are helping Southwest Kansas meet its rising labor in key industries. While making up 21.7% of the region’s overall population, immigrants accounted for 67.9% of essential food manufacturing workers, 18.3% of essential food service workers, 18.1% of essential services workers, and 15.9% of healthcare workers -- all critical industries that have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

● Immigrants play a significant role in the region’s entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 21.6% of business owners in Southwest Kansas in 2019. About 1,800 immigrant entrepreneurs generated $63.7 million in business income for the region.

● Immigrants in Southwest Kansas help create or preserve local manufacturing jobs. Immigrants strengthened the local job market by allowing companies to keep jobs on U.S. soil, helping preserve or create 1,400 local manufacturing jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere by 2019.

“Immigrants are helping fill essential roles across Southwest Kansas, working across various industries like manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture,” said Mo Kantner, director of state and local initiatives at the American Immigration Council. “By continuing to advance strategic planning efforts, Southwest Kansas can create a community that welcomes and supports all newcomers and ensures that the region can continue to reap the benefits.”

Read the full research brief here.