"Kansas needs to be less like California"--that is one of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's favorite applause lines.
Yet last August when we drove the Reverse Overland Trail it struck me that it would be a much better world for Kansas for Kansas's Prairie if it were to look like California's Central Valley.
Let me continue explaining why:
Some of the difference seemed to me that the Reverse Overland Trail in California is also the Yuppie Trail. Some of it seemed to me to be the demand of the two megalopoles SF and LA for labor-intensive agriculture. But it seemed to me that there was more. And the more seemed to be intimately tied up with the fact that the first language California Central Valley his Spanish.
California's Central Valley is filled with people up from Chiapas and Guatemala, people willing to move a 1000 miles to get a better life for themselves and their families, people with little tolerance for bureaucratic rules and regulations saying that because you were born in place X you are an illegal in place Y--and in California, people who are confident that the Anglos around them will help them rather than turn them in when La Migra comes knocking.
The self-image of the Republicans of Kansas seems to be that they are an entrepreneurial people: they see themselves as willing to take risks in order to achieve a better life, who require room to breathe, who have no respect for picky bureaucratic governmental regulations. So you would think that they would look at the people up from Chiapas and say: "These are our brothers and sisters! These are today's counterparts of our pioneer ancestors! Welcome!"
Instead, we have Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach saying: "71% of illegal aliens are on welfare!" And, more broadly, the center of gravity of the Republican Party in America's Congress sees it as their job to keep the Congressional majorities in both houses that actually would like to see and could easily agree on a comprehensive immigration reform from ever be able to express their views in a vote for final passage.
There are some worries about an accelerated pace of immigration. Will it worsen America's own income distribution and so retard upward mobility? (But that is why we have social-insurance programs.) Will it erode or democracy or damage our culture? (But people who do not think our culture and our political system are attractive to those who choose to move here have an opinion of America that is very low indeed.)
So put me down as thinking: I do wish rural Kansas looked a lot more like rural California--and suburban and urban Kansas, my oh my!