High Plains Drifting
Kansas has long been viewed as the quintessential white, rural, blue collar state in the heart of American cattle country. It’s wide open expanses conjure up images of America’s romanticized Wild West. But a growing number of immigrants are calling Garden City, tucked away in the remote southwest corner of the state with a population of 28,000, their home. Recent census numbers now show that whites make up less than 30% of the population of Finney County, where Garden City is the seat. Hispanics make up 65%, with blacks and growing numbers of Asian and African immigrants rounding out the rest. The immigrants are drawn to the region by the many meatpacking plants that have long relied on their labor in jobs that require little or no English language skills. While Hispanic immigrants make up the overwhelming majority of Garden City’s residents, thousands of Vietnamese and Southeast Asians arrived in the 1980s. Most recently Somalis, Ethiopians, and Burmese have added to Garden City’s diverse ethnic mix.