Marty Hillard

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.

Marty Hillard lives in Topeka. In a conversation with Jim Terrones of Olathe, he spoke about how we might be less divided if we listened more to the people experiencing the immigration system.


Why is the topic of immigration important to you?

I would say that maybe the first person that I think about when it comes to immigration is my friend Luis. His wife is a colleague of mine, and the conversation, it’s so interesting, because I’ve had conversations with him about being undocumented, but not ones that are specific to his own memories. What I do know about him is that he’s so passionate, and that … he’s such an advocate, and he’s worked with so many different nonprofits in a variety of capacities to continue to advocate for undocumented Latinos and Hispanics in our communities here in northeast Kansas, in the Kansas City area.

So just being able to see through his lens, but also to see him come alongside me as it relates to just racial and social justice overall, and some of the ongoing efforts that we’ve had here and in Shawnee County with regard to police violence and police reform. Our stories and our struggles are … tied directly with one another, and that they’re not just parallel, but they’re weaving in and out of each other every single day …

What do you think is dividing us on this issue?

It’s just, there’s just so much rich perspective that you can get hearing from people who directly are affected by these issues. When we go to the border, we don’t have enough conversations with the people that are directly affected. We might talk to policymakers in those areas, and we might talk to service people in those areas. But you know, how often do we talk to the people who are living this every day? Or the people who are in nonprofits offering direct aid and direct services to immigrants who are flowing across the border? I think that’s a lot … of where the division lies is that we were not talking to the right people often enough.


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