Alba Gutierrez-Ortiz

Editor’s Note: A diverse group of 10 Kansans from across the state started discussing the topics of immigration and demographic change with The Journal, KLC’s civic issues magazine, late last year. As part of their experience, they interviewed each other in pairs about their views and experiences related to immigration. The Journal is publishing highlights from their conversations.

Alba Gutierrez-Ortiz lives in Dodge City. In a conversation with Peggy Ruebke of Nickerson, she spoke about how her community and life in her family has been heavily shaped by immigration.


Why is the topic of immigration important to you?

It’s important to me because I have seen it in both my family and my friends. It’s part of American life, at least where I’m at. I’m in a community that’s about over 50% Latino. So it affects our daily lives here a lot in the sense that we have a need for employment. Sometimes the employers aren’t going about hiring people in the most legal ways. We just had a company that got busted for hiring minors.

If we’re not having this discussion now about making things easier or better, there’s going to be a whole lot of illegal things happening, or other repercussions that aren’t great. My dad had to sleep in a barn, work in construction and just did jobs as a kid, when you need to be in school and learning. My mom, she was pregnant with my oldest sister when she went across the river. Just totally unsafe conditions. I feel like there’s blood on everybody’s hands. And there’s more stories that are worse than my family’s. The people that don’t make it. The families that get separated. The children that no longer have their parents.

My mom just became a citizen in September. I got to see her fail at the exam once. That was back in May (of last year) that she failed it. There had been previous attempts, and I was too young to understand what happened, why she didn’t get it. She did the process, but she didn’t get it. I was a sixth grader, and I couldn’t help my mom.

Failing was very discouraging for her. The family, we all encouraged her to keep going. Because at this point, she’s a legal resident through my dad, before she became a citizen. She just was starting to feel that hopelessness of, “Well, what’s the point?” “Well, Mom, there’s the big point of of you being able to make your voice heard. These elections are where policy change happens.” We just went back and studied all the questions. There was a point in time that she could just fire off all the answers rapidly. Now that she’s 60, she feels like she’s a little slower. But she was able to get it that … time around.

She is officially a citizen. And this past election year, I was able to take her to vote for the first time. So that was pretty exciting.


Sign up for The Journal’s kickoff event on Aug. 17 and learn more about how you can join Gutierrez-Ortiz in making the conversation about immigration and demographic change in Kansas and beyond healthier.

Read more in the Summer 2023 edition of The Journal, which will be published Aug. 10.

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