Refugee Resettlement Watch

University of Kansas professor to study Garden City, KS adjustment to demographic change

Posted by Ann Corcoran on December 18, 2012

…But even before his research of the educational system and the challenges of a diverse student population it faces begins, he is prejudiced in favor of a positive report.

Here is how the story in the Garden City Telegram wraps up:

Stull [Don Stull professor of anthropology] said that in contrast to many other demographically similar communities that he has studied, Garden City is one of only a few that views diversity as something positive.

“Not everybody is happy about it, certainly, but Garden City, as a whole, has met those challenges head on and has seen the growing cultural and linguistic diversity as something to be valued and celebrated,” he said.

Got a hint now of the tone of the final report on this town in the heartland that has been transformed over three decades of immigrants arriving there to supply the cheap labor needs of Tyson Foods!

Before I launch into the rest of this very informative piece in the Garden City Telegram, check out our archives on Garden City.  We have written many posts about the problems there with the burgeoning immigrant population thanks to readers from Garden City who are the unhappy ones Stull refers to above.

One of my all time favorite stories from Garden City is when members of the Somali community demanded their own publicly funded section of the Cemetery so they didn’t need to be near the infidels even in death.  No assimilation even in death.   For our lengthy archive on Garden City, go here.

Another city in Kansas, Emporia, couldn’t take it when Tysons brought in hundreds of Somali workers, much controversy ensued and ultimately Tysons closed the Emporia plant and moved those workers to towns, like Garden City, that “celebrate” diversity.  See our whole category on what happened in Emporia (there are other posts in that category about how meatpackers are changing towns).  Other struggling meatpacking towns with immigrant controversies may be found in our category, Greeley/Swift Somali controversy.*

Here is the Garden City Telegram story from earlier this month (emphasis mine):

Because of its diversity, Garden City will be the focus of a research study conducted by the University of Kansas, beginning in January.

KU researchers recently were awarded a grant that will allow them to study the impact 30 years of continuous population changes in Garden City have had on local schools, and what that could teach educators in other communities nationwide.

“Garden City was at the forefront of that changing demographic and has been an exemplar, not only of what has happened, but what will continue to happen,” Don Stull, KU professor of anthropology, said. “Schools are one of the places in any community where everyone comes together. That’s not necessarily true of work, recreation, religion or similar institutions. We’ll be able to look at that intersection of school and community and learn a great deal.”

Stull has done research about Garden City for the past 25 years, contributing to his expertise about the impact meat and poultry industries have on communities.

Apparently Stull plans to report that Garden City is an “exemplar” that other cities should follow.  His report will then be used to guilt-trip other overloaded meatpacking towns to not complain about the immigrant labor flowing in and out of their towns.

American blacks have high unemployment rates.

By the way, just this morning Roy Beck of NumbersUSA sent out an e-mail stating that the media is starting to pay attention to the high unemployment numbers for black Americans.  Here is one paragraph from his e-mail:

As has happened in every great wave of immigration, the nation’s employers have eliminated channels of recruitment into poor Black communities. Employers don’t need Black American workers for construction, manufacturing, service and transportation because the government provides masses of new immigrant workers every year who, as the Post noted, have built-in job networks and a rootlessness that give them advantages for the scarce jobs of this economy.  [Additionally, the immigrant workers, esp. the refugees, are taking advantage of the social safety net so that meatpacking wages can be kept low.---ed]

I digressed!  Back to Garden City….

Since Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) opened in December 1980 in Holcomb (now Tyson Fresh Meats), immigrants from Latin America, southeast Asia and, more recently, Somalia, Ethiopia and Myanmar have relocated to Garden City.

The $40,000 grant awarded by the Spencer Foundation will allow professors Stull and Jennifer Ng, KU associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies, to conduct interviews with teachers, administrators, parents and students, to see how they have approached the cultural shift in terms of meeting the educational needs of Garden City’s migrant and refugee students, who collectively speak 21 languages other than English.

“The Spencer Foundation research will afford me the opportunity, along with Jennifer, to spend quite a bit of time in Garden City, focusing specifically on the schools and how administrators, teachers and other staff — how they really are dealing with that growing diversity,” Stull said.

The professors’ research will enable them to compile and share data with other communities in the nation and Canada that are experiencing similar change.

Stull:  Garden City is a “micropolitan” community!   Bet you wish you had one of these!

Micropolitan communities are rural, small towns, based largely on agricultural economies, but they experience the kind of social and cultural challenges that metropolitan areas face. So one of the attractive things about Garden City, to researchers like myself, is that there are a lot of really interesting things happening, but they’re happening on a scale small enough that you can kind of get your mind around it, you can see it,” he said.

Readers might want to visit this post from 2010 where another professor in Kansas (Kansas State) wrote not so favorably about the refugees being delivered into the hands of meatpackers by the government (and the NGOs!) to Kansas towns and leaving the problems of assimilation to the towns to cope with!

* I have a theory that when the Somalis caused such problems a few years ago in meatpacking plants with their lawsuits and religious demands, that the big boys in the meat industry said to the State Department—bring us refugee laborers that are more docile!  Thus the Burmese Karen and Bhutanese/Nepalis began being resettled in huge numbers.  Legal and trapped labor is just the ticket for the meat giants!

Trapped?  Refugees can’t go home unless they can scrounge up money for a return flight.  Some have managed to do that.

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One Response to “University of Kansas professor to study Garden City, KS adjustment to demographic change”

  1. [...] Island is another of those American meatpacking towns (like Garden City, KS which I just wrote about this week) being transformed through the Refugee Resettlement program as [...]

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