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.
Jim Terrones lives in Olathe and is a retired corrections administrator. In a conversation with Marty Hillard of Topeka, he spoke about his family’s immigration history and his hopes for the future.
Why is the topic of immigration important to you?
I was brought up in Newton, Kansas. It’s a railroad community north of Wichita. My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Back then, they did their paperwork, and they came because they saw the employment opportunity in America. My grandparents lived in housing next to the railroad, because that’s all they could afford. That’s what the railroad community provided for them until they were able to save enough income to get a home. And both my parents were born in the United States.
I was raised hearing the trains going by … all hours of the day. And I remember seeing … my uncles and my dad and friends, they would just walk because everybody lived close to the railroad, and some of the coldest days. And on some of the hottest days, they would walk home. Somewhere along the line, I told myself, I am not going to work for the railroad.
How would life be better for you if this issue was resolved?
My great grandmother, my great grandparents didn’t see (immigration reform). My parents didn’t see it. I would like my brothers and sisters to see it. A lot of my uncles and aunts are now gone. It would be nice if my granddaughter, my nieces and nephews would see some sort of immigration reform, because it’s going to be better for the friends and the colleagues that I know. They’re Dreamers, they’re business owners, they’re paying their taxes, they’re raising their families. They just want to be part of the American dream, if you will. I just think that it would be better. Because when we work together, good things can happen in this country.
Sign up for The Journal’s kickoff event on Aug. 17 and learn more about how you can join Terrones 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.