By Jane Stoever

The Safe and Welcoming ordinance that supporters sought for five years became law Feb. 10, passed 6-4 by commissioners of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. The law allows undocumented residents to obtain a city ID in KCK, news reports say. The law also provides that, unless there is a threat of danger to the public, law enforcement will not report or investigate the immigration status of persons in KCK.

Among its advocates is Charles Carney, a KCK resident. “We’re the third most diverse county in the nation,” says Carney. “I’m happy we’re finally starting to act like it!” He adds, “When my wife and I go out, we are served often and well by undocumented persons at many businesses. They keep our neighborhoods vibrant. This new ID process makes us all more complete, more whole as a community.”

Before the commissioners’ meeting, a large group rallied outside, singing, “Imagine we’re the leaders / Who we’ve been waiting on / And we can lead together / With celebra—ation / Imagine all the people / Living our best lives.” The “Safe and Welcoming” ordinance supporters sang with a bow to “Imagine,” by John Lennon; the video is by Ann Suellentrop.

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Commenting on the Feb. 10 testimony to commissioners, Carney mentioned a man who said the communities around Central and Minnesota Avenues in KCK would be “decimated” without undocumented workers. Carney reflected, “We owe a debt to the people here who keep our area alive.”

PeaceWorks Board members who have supported the law include Carney, Ann Suellentrop, and Kristin Scheer, all present during the Unified Government commissioners’ deliberations Feb. 10. In addition, PeaceWorks members either at the commission proceedings or the rally beforehand included David Johnson, Tom Scott, Patty Wernel, Beth Seberger, Michael McGrath, Henry Stoever, and Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Therese Bangert, who lives in KCK.

Bangert told the commissioners that she and others were speaking up for their neighbors who so often are devalued, who so often are told they don’t belong, “unless it is for a job deemed essential.” She added, “There was and is a very strong business coalition, of which the Unified Government was a member. The business coalition knows that the work of the hands of our sisters and brothers who are immigrants keep our Kansas economy going.”

Reflecting on the long-sought approval of the commissioners, Carney said in an interview, “This ordinance not only serves the undocumented workers, but it also helps US citizens who are unsheltered to more easily get an ID. That helps them get out of homelessness more quickly.”

—Jane Stoever is a PeaceWorks-KC member. ©2022, Jane Stoever, Ann Suellentrop, Therese Bangert, Charles Carney, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.