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Experts: Kansas dependent on immigrant labor, foreign trade

Allie Devine, left, an attorney and former Kansas secretary of agriculture, and Laurie Minard, vice president of human resources at Garmin International Inc. in Olathe, say Kansas depends on foreign immigration for both low-skill and high-skill labor.

At a time when global free trade agreements and the influx of immigrant labor into the United States are both highly charged political issues, experts say the Kansas economy is heavily dependent on both.

That was one of the key messages Thursday at the annual Kansas Economic Policy Conference, held on the campus of the University of Kansas. The event was sponsored by KU's Institute for Policy and Social Research.

Alexandre Skiba, a former KU economics professor who now teaches at the University of Wyoming, said that's especially true in rural western Kansas where the meatpacking industry depends on immigrant labor, and the entire agriculture industry generally depends on access to foreign markets.

"Immigrants in rural areas replace the loss of labor due to the decline in native-born population," he said, referring to the general population shift from rural to urban areas that has been occurring for decades.

At the same time, he said, foreign exports account for a significant portion of the state's cereal grain and meat production, with a large amount of those exports going to countries with which the United States has free trade agreements, namely Canada and Mexico.

Currently, the Trump administration is engaged in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. It also is trying to secure funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, and it has clamped down on allowing refugees to enter the U.S. from other countries.

"I think we have an overabundance of nationalism," said Allie Devine, an attorney and former Kansas secretary of agriculture. "I think that it is being driven partially factually. Partially, it's rallying the troops, so to speak."

Meanwhile, Laurie Minard, vice president of human resources at Garmin International Inc., an Olathe-based company that specializes in GPS technology for a wide range of industries, said her company is equally dependent on access to an international workforce, and she said the current political climate in the U.S. is hard on that business.

"We’re doing all the research and development in Olathe," Minard said. "Again, we just can’t find enough engineers. We are a global company. We have offices in 30 different countries. We make products in other languages. It’s really part of our DNA. We really look for people and that diversification to help us innovate and make the best products available."

Garmin was at the center of a national discussion about the current backlash against immigration in February when one of its employees, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was shot and killed in an Olathe bar, and another employee, Alok Madasani, was injured. A witness reportedly said the shooter yelled "Get out of my country" before opening fire.

Comments

MerriAnnie Smith

What have we been saying for years? Republicans, if you keep punishing and harassing immigrants you will begin to feel the pinch yourselves, when food becomes more scarce and prices go up because the employees they CAN get will require higher wages, and if they don't get enough citizens who're willing to do that kind of work, there will be shortages of agricultural products.

Why do you want to be so hard-nosed in the face of such FACTS? Do you hate brown-skinned people THAT much?

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Michael Kort

Hey rural people .

You voted for Trump ? !

He's going to kill Ag exports and flood this country with non exportable surplus Ag product dropping it's price .

Rural people,........It's Make Trump Great Again Time and you can go broke doing it ! .......He will let you !

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Richard Heckler

Voter Suppression = Denying a citizen the right to vote = breaking the law!

Shouldn't the FBI and the Attorney General at the federal level be investigating this matter? Can't citizens demand an FBI investigation?

Voting Republican … Why?

Gov Sam Brownback is as guilty as Kris Kobach. Neither one are pro voters.

There is no legal foundation for this activity. These people have chosen a few thousand voters and pronounced them guilty without a jury trial.

Why are voters in Kansas so quiet?

Voting Republican … Why?

Voting the RINO/GOP ticket::

Supports A War On Women

Supports a failing economy

Supports a war on voters rights

Supports war on public education

Supports a war on medicare,medicaid and Social Security Insurance

This war is being waged by way of the federal and state levels of government as we speak.

Voter ID/Voter Suppression is a problem that some are suggesting is being effective. Don't underestimate these white collar criminals.

Republicans Hate Voters seems like to me.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Bob Smith

Immigrants are welcome. Illegal aliens should be removed immediately.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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William Cummings

Ask Srinivas Kuchibhotla how he was welcomed as an immigrant.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Not according to the people you support, Bob. They want to end all immigration.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Gary Stussie

That's not true!

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Julie Kirchner Trump's appointee as Ombudsman for the Citizenship and Immigration Services. Former director of FAIR, an anti-immigration group.

Sessions on immigrants improving their lives: “be able to immediately apply for much better jobs than they currently have…Maybe they were working at a restaurant part time. Now they’re going to be truck drivers, heavy-equipment operators competing at the factories and plants and we’ve got an unemployment rate that’s very high.” He has also spoken at several anti-immigration groups.

Kobach served as counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Both are anti-immigration groups.

Kellyanne Conway has done lots of polling work for FAIR.

Stephen Miller mentee of Richard Spencer and David Horowitz (founder of anti-immigrant group).

Lou Barletta served on the advisory board of the Federation for American Immigration,Reform.

Steve Bannon - His "news" outlet, Britefart, champions only immigration from European countries. Buddies with Richard Spencer.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Oh, sorry, Gary. They just want to limit immigration drastically, and only want them to come from white European countries, and have lots of skills. They are tired of only being able to hire hispanic gardeners and nannies.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Ray Mizumura

The people in the article didn't discuss undocumented immigrants. I see nothing in the article to suggest that they had a subtext or hidden agenda on behalf of the undocumented. You don't have anything useful to say about this article.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Carol Bowen

Congress is adept at one dimensional thinking. Think about the consequences of limiting 401k contributions. 401k’s are stock investments. What would the market look like with 1/3 of the 401k investments the market relies on? Healthcare reform, tax reform. We will see the same shallow thinking on every issue.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Marc Wilborn

While the 401k might be limited, you would still have a Roth eligible account in the plan. The point is to tax the money now, not 25 years in the future.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Carol Bowen

Taxing Roth money now will increase a tax payer’s taxable income and possibly the tax bracket, while the 401k’s delay the taxes until the tax payer’s income is lower.

However, I was referring to the health of the market, itself. The creation of 401k’s has increased stock market activity. The volume will be lower if 401k distributions are decreased as proposed. Since Roth contributions are taxed up front, less money will be invested in the stock market.

These are generalizations. Please correct me if my guesses are off base.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Gary Stussie

Watch "Clinton Cash" tonight on One America News (Chnl 347 OANHD) at 9 PM Central to see how fortunate we are that Crooked Hillary was not elected.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Ray Mizumura

No, I won't waste my time with propaganda. I don't see why you need to, either--you've already made up your mind about the issue. Well, actually, that's why you do want to watch it.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

What does this have to do with whether or not immigrants and foreign trade is good for Kansas. Trying to distract us from your buddies destroying our economy? Why do you hate immigrants? Why do you hate the rest of the world? Or do you just like the "white" parts?

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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P Allen Macfarlane

Those blue-collar jobs that immigrants take on will go unfilled in the rural parts of the state. The poorly educated, unemployed, white population in these areas aren't interested in these jobs. Too labor intensive and the pay is too low.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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