March 4, 2011 | El Dorado Times | Original Article

Kan. Hispanic population surges 59 pct. in decade

Kansas saw its Hispanic population surge over the past decade, according to census figures released Thursday, but advocates warned it will lose many of those new residents should the Legislature approve a tough illegal immigration crackdown they say has driven many legal U.S. citizens out of other states.

The local figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau show the number of Hispanics in Kansas surged by 59 percent since 2000 and now represents more than one in every 10 residents.

Sharon Spauth, a Hispanic resident of Wichita who moved with her family in 1970 from Colorado, said part of the reason Kansas has experienced so much growth is the economic downturn in other states. That has driven new immigrant workers to meatpacking plants in western Kansas, she said.

"When other states have a lack of prosperity, we have waves of (Hispanics) who come into Kansas," said Spauth, who works as a tax preparer.

The Kansas House is considering a bill that includes a provision similar to an Arizona law enacted last year that requires law enforcement officers to check the status of people they stop who are suspected of being illegal immigrants.

That, Spauth said, would halt the population growth among Latinos. Kansas had an influx of Hispanic residents come into the state when Oklahoma passed a restrictive law against illegal immigrants, she said three illegal immigrant families at her church moved in December from Arizona.