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.

Reynaldo Mesa lives in Garden City, where he formerly served as mayor and a state representative. In a conversation with Inas Younis, he he discusses his frustrations with how the issue is being handled.


Tell us how your experiences have shaped your views on this topic?

Because of my background of being Hispanic, and my father being born in Mexico, who came to Garden City back in 1948. My mother was from Copeland, Kansas, but she too is Mexican. There’s eight of us in our family.

When I was younger, you really didn’t think much about it. I didn’t see or have much of an issue. I grew up in the middle to late ‘70s, going to school. We just didn’t have the things going on, at least here in Garden City, that you see today. Very divided. Lots of hatred going on.

I’ll be honest with you. I think the politicians feed into that. Being an elected official, I did serve a couple of years in the Statehouse; there were times I had to fight back. The attempt to get our hands involved in immigration, when it’s actually a federal issue. However, the states are important in that conversation and should be involved to some extent.

On a personal level, I’ve become more critical of the way things are being handled. … Like we’re not holding people accountable like we could. I think Mexico should be held accountable to help us solve this problem. I feel for the women and children and the men being exploited and harmed in sex trafficking. With the latest comments from the president from Mexico, he acts like there’s not a problem. They are a problem. My view has been a little more critical about how the U.S. is handling the problem. I believe we can fix it, and we choose not to.  

I believe (immigration) should be important to all of us, because quite frankly, without immigration, I don’t think the U.S. could function, to be honest with you. We make up the people who come here, this is who we are. This is what the United States is all about. That’s why people want to come here, for the freedom and the ability to exercise their freedoms. We live in the greatest country in the world. So, it is important to me and I want to try to keep it that way, as much as possible, for others to enjoy the freedoms that we do have. Because a lot of other countries, man, you just don’t have this form of government, this republic. We have the ability to vote for who we want in office. So immigration is part of that. It’s part of the United States. The immigrants helped build this nation.


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