Clemente Bobadilla-Reyes

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.

Clemente Bobadilla-Reyes lives in Wichita. In a conversation with Mark Lowry, a small business owner in Stockton, he shares about his experiences with the immigration system and how they have influenced his views.


Why is the topic of immigration important to you?

Being an immigrant myself, immigration is very important to me. Because I lived through it. I watched my parents live through it. I’ve watched other family members go through it. And it’s important to me, because it’s a lot different being on both sides of it.

I was lucky enough that when I was growing up, I didn’t know I was an immigrant. I didn’t know I was illegal until I was much older and I kind of understood the process. But I think nowadays, it’s a lot more polarized. You get villainized a little bit more when you’re an immigrant.

When in my case, I was brought to this country against my own will. I didn’t tell my parents, “Hey, bring me into the U.S. illegally.” I consider myself as proud of being an American as I am Mexican. Because I would probably not have the opportunities I have now if I’d still been in Mexico. That’s why immigration is very important to me. Because without it, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. I’m sharing what’s essentially my life story. 

I went through the process (of becoming a citizen) myself. Being so young, I don’t remember much about it. One memory I do have that kind of tickles me: I remember when my Social Security card arrived in the mail. I just remember being so excited because my name had a number now, like I existed. That’s kind of the way I saw it. That’s the only memory I really have of the whole process, other than just going to the lawyer’s office, having my mom fill out a whole bunch of different paperwork.

Personally, now my mother-in-law’s in the middle of trying to get her visa. She’s been here – she was here, she’s in Mexico – going on almost 30 years. Her life she went back to is completely different. The town she grew up in 30 years ago is different. Friends and family she knew from back then aren’t there anymore. Just the uncertainty of not knowing when she’ll be back is what’s really affected us, especially my wife now. Because we’ve heard it’s either six months or nine months. We heard it could be up to two years. We heard it could be up to 10 years. But we don’t know, and that’s what we’re going through now. Paying thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees, just at the end of the day, to be at the mercy of whoever’s assigned her case.

What do you think is dividing us on this issue? Are there areas where you feel misunderstood?

Something that’s kind of my biggest struggle right now is trying to get people to not be so far on either side. I don’t believe in amnesty either. I feel like you should go through the process if you want to be here. I don’t think you should be automatically given something. It could just be the fact that I wasn’t given anything. I don’t believe in handouts. I try to remain very neutral in the middle, but for some reason nowadays, it’s hard to be in the middle, because you are told you have to be on one side or the other. 


Sign up for The Journal’s kickoff event on Aug. 17 and learn more about how you can join Bobadilla-Reyes 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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