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.
Mark Lowry lives in Stockton and owns a small business. He isn’t an immigrant. But in a conversation with Clemente Bobadilla-Reyes of Wichita, he shares how family experiences have given him a window into the barriers that newcomers to this country can face.
Why is the topic of immigration important to you?
I’m not an immigrant but I do have an adopted daughter. My wife and I adopted a young lady that is an American citizen. Her mother came to California when she was expecting and had her daughter in California. Then after she was born and a United States citizen, they went back to Mexico. She lived most of her youthful life in Mexico.
Due to some family situations there and some conditions, she ended up with some family members from Kansas and ended up in the foster care system. So we adopted a teenager that is an American citizen but really struggled with a lot of the same challenges that probably most immigrants have if they come to the United States.
When we adopted her, she didn’t really have very much English and was really kind of behind in some education things. It was a fantastic experience. It was hard. A lot of difficult years helping a young person from a difficult situation. She has now become a successful young adult …
She probably faced a lot of the challenges that someone who was a new immigrant would face. Some of the English challenges and some of the educational challenges, and maybe even some of the challenges that people just didn’t accept her very well because of who she was and where she came from.
For someone with my background, I’m just a white male. I’ve never experienced discrimination on those levels and what that feels like. That’s kind of heartbreaking to me when people don’t understand. Because she couldn’t speak English very well, they didn’t give her much of a chance or treated her differently because of who she was.
It’s important to give others a chance. I think this country is built on diversity. That’s what makes us great is the idea that we have different people from different places all coming together and sharing ideas and sharing resources and how we can live together in peace.
On the professional side, I live in a very rural area of northwest Kansas. One of the things I think is really challenging right now is a lack of workforce. Immigration could be a real key if we could somehow find a path to citizenship for immigrants coming to the United States. Right now, I could go down our Main Street and almost every business is looking for help. Our unemployment (rate) is very low. Every business would take in new employees and hire new employees if we had the opportunity to have more people in our community. More open immigration, even if it had some rules, would benefit our rural communities.
Sign up for The Journal’s kickoff event on Aug. 17 and learn more about how you can join Lowry 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.