This is a twist. Usually city officials complain when buses of illegal aliens arrive in their sanctuary cities. A city in Kansas would be happy to have those buses roll up and drop off some illegal aliens.
What madness is this? The city is Topeka, Kansas, the state’s capitol city. There are a lot of job openings and the mayor is doing what he can to fill them. As an incentive, the city will pay them $15,000 to move to Topeka. A growing Hispanic community makes up 17 per cent of the population. The more, the merrier, according to the mayor.
Topeka Mayor Michael Padilla is a moderate Democrat in a Republican-leaning state. He thinks a diverse community makes the city more prosperous. Though he doesn’t specifically ask for an influx of illegal aliens those are the people in the buses he references. He simply calls the people he wishes to attract “migrants.”
It sounds like Topeka has a pretty good thing going, with its unemployment rate of just 2.9% compared to the national rate of 3.7%. There are 7,000 job openings. The population is a little more than 126,000. Now the city wants to pay people to move there. What could go wrong?
The city launched a program called Choose Topeka in 2019. It offers up to $15,000 to anyone who moves from outside Shawnee County and there is a cap of $300,000 a year. That seems like a generous budget for a small city. The taxpayers pay for half the incentive and the employers pay for the other half. I like that the taxpayers aren’t completely on the hook.
Last year Topeka began targeting migrants for the program because of the thousands and thousands surging over the southern border. The city’s Hispanic population jumped 25% in the last decade. Topeka officials want to continue to grow the Hispanic community and see migrants as a way to do so. There is one catch – only newcomers with a job are eligible. An illegal alien without permission to work in the United States can’t apply. So, that’s going to eliminate those buses from Texas, Mr. Mayor.
The city doesn’t have the money to build migrant shelters, but it will take any new arrivals to work. This contributes to the economy, the mayor said.
The big push for migrants began under the last mayor, Michelle De La Isla. Like Padilla, she is bilingual, as is the current mayor. Her parents were from Mexico.
‘I’ve seen our Hispanic and immigrant populations drive innovation and strengthen our community,’ she said at the time.
‘It’s incredible to watch the city grow as a cultural hub, and with the constant development of initiatives to support Hispanic entrepreneurs, students, families, children, and even tourists, I’m excited to see what’s to come.’
The Choose Topeka has spent about $50,000, that is 10 per cent of their tourism marketing budget. It is using Spanish language advertising and they have published a guidebook to the city for Spanish-speakers.
The program attracted huge attention in Latin America when it was featured on Noticias Telemundo in October.
Since then, the Greater Topeka Partnership, which oversees the program, has received almost 10,000 resumes from migrants asking for help to get a job and move there.
A Facebook post by the group had dozens of comments in Spanish from people in Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, and already in the US asking for information.
It sounds like there is interest but the migrants applying to come need help finding a job in order to move to Topeka. Are employers who need people hiring them before they leave their home country?
Bob Ross, senior vice president of communications for the Greater Topeka Partnership, said the demand was strong.
‘Over the past year we have seen a large uptick in interest from first generation immigrants who are relocating to Topeka,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘We have limited details on many of them, hearing anecdotal stories of people letting us know they received jobs at FedEx or UPS, among others.
‘We are actively working with one entrepreneur who is Venezuelan restaurant owner who is trying to open a new location in Topeka. He currently has a successful restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio.’
Hispanics made up 37 per cent of Topeka public school students. They are on track to become the largest demographic in the school system. Why is that so great? Shouldn’t Topeka public schools be educating all residents’ children, including the white children? Or, has Topeka’s public school system become as bad as most other public school systems across the country? Have those who can afford it put their children in private or a parochial school? Why would the mayor want to encourage that?
The story is somewhat confusing but is sounds like the mayor just wants to fill job openings. That’s a very Chamber of Commerce kind of response to the migrant issue. At a time when about 9 million illegal aliens are roaming around this country, thanks to Joe Biden, incentivizing more to come with cash payments doesn’t seem to be working very well. The program began in November 2022 and only 70 people have moved to Topeka as part of the incentive program. Of those people, 27 of them came from other cities in Kansas. Those already in Kansas when they moved were only eligible for a $10,000 incentive. Twenty-six of the 70 are remote workers. They are only eligible for the $10,000 incentive, too. The others work for local companies. Their average wages are at least $60,000 per year.
Some taxpayers are not happy about tax money being used in the program. Locals point to the fact that property taxes rose 123.1 per cent since 1997. Others, like the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think-tank, argue that the money should be used on other things like improving services, cutting taxes, and maintaining the city’s bad roads, which will attract new residents without having to pay them to move.
Bob Ross insists the program is doing well. He’s in favor of sticking with it.
‘We anticipated the average employee who came in would make $60,000; so far, the average salary is $90,000,’ he said.
‘We initially projected a 6-times return on our investment; in just the first year, we calculated a $3.9 million impact from the program, which is a 14-times return on the investment. So there’s a real dollar value to doing this.’
Maybe the program will work in the long run. It just seems like welcoming in people because of migrant status or just because they are Hispanics is an affirmative action kind of approach to take. Anyway, the mayor should probably forget about welcoming in migrant buses from Texas. Besides, Topeka isn’t a sanctuary city. The mayor could always work out something with DHS. DHS flies and buses far more illegal aliens than does Governor Abbott.