By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
There is a reality we have to face in Liberal if we want our community to move forward.
No matter what the solution may be, our ethnic mix won’t be changing any time soon.
We can explore a number of options, but the same conclusion will always be the end result: Liberal will have a large number of Hispanics into the forseeable future.
Let’s look at the multiple immigration options on the table and weigh how each one of them would affect our community.
If there is a widespread amnesty, which is unlikely, we would have the exact same community we have now.
If there is some type of limited amnesty, for example, requiring a job, or paying a fine, or ineligible for public assistance, we would have the exact same community we have now.
If there is no amnesty at all, we would have the exact same community we have now, because we don’t have amnesty today, and yet we have a high Hispanic population.
If there is a deportation of all illegal aliens, we would have new Hispanics replacing the old Hispanics, but we would still have the exact same percentage we do now. Why? Because even if all illegal immigrants were deported, the job openings would be filled by the newest Hispanics that are coming to America legally. All we would be doing is sending these Hispanics back to the line, but they would eventually make their way through the line, or those in front of them would make their way here first. Either way, the Hispanic make-up of the community is not changing.
Why is it important to recognize this fact?
There are those in our community who do not believe we should address the housing issue because more Hispanics will fill those homes.
There are some who believe we should not improve our schools because Hispanic students fill our classes.
If we prevent our community from considering decent improvements simply because we believe there are some in the community who shouldn’t have access to nicer things, we will be responsible for creating a third-world community all by ourselves.
I believe in the letter of the law, but even if every illegal immigrant had to become registered, it is not going to change this community in the next 20 years.
I don’t want to wait 20 years to see Liberal grow in a positive way.
Right now, all indications are that we are poised for a growth explosion.
We have low unemployment, we have 450 jobs available today, and our schools are busting at the seams.
If/When we solve the housing crunch, Liberal is going to grow, and grow quickly.
For some, growth is a scary prospect. For others, remaining the same is just as scary.
Already, we are being outpaced by our neighbors, both north and south, who have decided to use their collective energy to advance their cities.
It is time we do the same.
Right now, a great project is under way in our town called Be Liberal, and that is not the political reference but the community term.
We need to Be proud of our town, Be willing to nurture its growth, and Be part of the solution.
I’m not calling for handouts or sanctuary status. Let those who enforce the law enforce it.
But we will need a community recreation center if we want to grow. Garden City has two, Guymon has one, Hugoton has one, and that is where the new industries are headed.
We will need to examine the schools, and we will need to plan on new neighborhoods.
It doesn’t matter who will be living in the new homes or apartments. What most of us understand is that the person living there will probably change in two or three years.
But someone will be moving in to fill the job, and that is what is important. We keep filling the jobs, and Liberal will continue to grow.
With a good hospital, strong schools and a high quality of life, we will be able to get folks to stay longer.
Right now, we are fighting the wrong battle. We need to focus our energy not on who is here, but how do we fill the jobs available here. How do we share the tax base by adding more homeowners? How do we grow the local economy by offering more goods and services to people who shop here? How do we get more to choose Liberal as their shopping destination?
How do we attract industry if we don’t have homes for workers?
How do we retain laborers and professionals if we don’t offer what other communities our size already have?
Once we forget who lives here, we can start to answer the questions that really matter.
Housing is the key to our future, not a $20 million factory gamble. The old adage has now been reversed. We don’t need to build it so they will come. They are already here, and it’s time to build it.