We’ve just recognized Hispanic and Latino Heritage month, an annual time to showcase the contributions of the Hispanic and Latino community.
Of course, Latinos' far-reaching and diverse contributions go well beyond a month-long observance.
Among Latinos’ many contributions is the economic impact they generate for Kansas. In 2014, Kansas residents in immigrant-led households had $3.8 billion in spending power (after-tax income), according to a report from the New American Research Fund.
That includes the contributions of Kansans in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In June 2012, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo establishing DACA. The memo stated that “certain young people who were brought to the U. S. as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria” would receive temporary protection from deportation, for a period of two years, and be eligible to apply for work authorization.
Nearly 6,000 Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients now live in Kansas. DACA recipients in Kansas paid an estimated $14.6 million in state and local taxes in 2016, according to the American Immigration Council.
Considering the economic contributions alone, Gov. Laura Kelly made a commonsense stand recently in joining other states in legal action supporting the DACA program. Gov. Kelly noted that rescinding DACA would cost Kansas millions of dollars in tax income and economic growth, while unfairly punishing undocumented Kansans who are contributing to their communities and the state’s economy.
Our state was founded in part by people born in foreign lands who chose to make Kansas their home. They came from England, Ireland, Germany and other countries. And just as we embraced those families so long ago, we also should welcome the young Latinos who were brought to the United Sates as children and are now committed to their professions and making other positive contributions in their communities. DACA has helped provide Kansas with needed additions to the workforce, while giving these newer Americans stability through a permit that allows them to work in the state.
Out of the 6,000 or so DACA young professionals living in Kansas, many exemplify the American dream.
Ernestor De La Rosa, assistant city manager for Dodge City, is one example of DACA making a difference in a Kansas community. Born and raised in Mexico City, Ernestor was brought to the United States at the age of 13. Spanish was his first language. Despite having to learn how to speak and write English and enduring financial hardships, he was able to graduate with a master’s degree in public administration from Wichita State University.
Today, he is proud to work for Dodge City and is passionate about public service. He said: “There is nothing more satisfying than serving a community like Dodge City and improving our services to meet the needs of our residents.”
DACA has given Ernestor the opportunity to grow in his career, help provide for his family and proudly serve Dodge City.
“DACA has given thousands of young people like me legal protection, which has allowed us to significantly impact our communities with economic and fiscal contributions. We (DACA recipients) have lived the majority of our lives in the United States and are part of the social fabric of this great country,” De La Rosa said.
Today, I urge you to stand with me in support of immigrants such as Ernestor who were brought to the United States as children. We must protect DACA. Too much is at stake, including our Kansas economy and our way of life.
While we embraced the Hispanic and Latino community as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we must also recognize our Latino and Hispanic immigrant community year-round. By supporting DACA, we are welcoming young Latinos who were brought to the United States as children and now are Kansans who will help write the next chapter of our state's history.
Audé Negrete serves as executive director of the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission.