Immigration has been at the top of the list of what people in Kansas have been asking about at U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s town hall meetings, but it was disaster relief at the top of the list for those in Dickinson County.
Recent flooding has damaged county roads, grain fields and businesses and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has yet to officially declare Dickinson as a disaster county.
Moran, R-Kan., said it was only a matter of time.
“Which makes little sense, except that it is in the process,” he said of the nonofficial declaration at a town hall meeting Friday at the Abilene Rotary Club meeting. “The governor has made that request. What is missing is the FEMA confirmation of the damages.”
He said that happened Friday morning before he left Washington, D.C.
“No county would want the designation of being a disaster county but if you’ve had a disaster, it now means that the federal dollars can be available,” he said.
That final confirmation should be coming in a few days.
“What that means, particularly for the county commissioners and others, is federal fund flow for damaged public property. That designation also means that farmers qualify for assistance at USDA,” he said.
The Small Business Administration will also have low- or no-interest loans to help businesses recover.
“My point is to make good news in a bad situation,” he said.
Moran said there has been a lot of dissatisfaction with the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
“But I think the flooding we’ve had at our reservoirs would have happened regardless, even if the reservoirs had been empty,” Moran said. “The magnitude of what happened in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri is such, at least, the Corps would want you to think it is not mismanaging reservoirs; this is a magnitude that would cause a flood regardless of the flow out of the reservoirs.”
Speaking for close to an hour, Moran touched on a number of subjects.
Moran was on his way to the U.S./Mexican border when he got sidetracked.
“I was headed to the border so I could get a view on your behalf for what I see is going on in border security, who is coming here and the humanitarian point of view, how we are treating people, particularly children.”
He got up early in Phoenix to hike up Camelback Mountain. At the top he shattered his ankle.
“The reality is that I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people who care,” Moran said. “There are a lot of people with a lot more challenging circumstances. It’s a reminder that we all do need the help of other people to get through daily life.
“There is no more stronger political issue today. As far as an issue that people are fired up about, it’s this one,” he said of immigration.
Moran said border security is important.
“Who comes across our border matters to us,” he said.
He said the immigration system is broken.
“We need a process by which we, as Americans, can determine how many people we can assimilate into this country and what kind of jobs and what kind of roles they can play in this country and have a process where we check their security and determine whether this is someone we want to be a citizen of this country,” he said.
“Whatever the barrier is, we need to check who comes to this country,” he said. “And it’s not just about the Mexican border, but it’s about people who bring drugs, crime, human trafficking.”
He said Congress could do a lot about immigration but that Democratic senators seem to think we have to take care of every immigration issue in one piece of legislation or nothing. Moran wants to do it a piece at a time.
“There is an interest in agricultural workers. There is an issue in STEM, people with degrees in engineering coming to the United States. There is an interest in fixing DACA,” he said.
DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants children brought to this country temporary freedom from deportation and a work permit.
He said that at a town hall meeting in Jetmore, a consensus was that anyone wanting to come to the county was welcome.
“If they want to come to our community and work, we welcome them,” he said of that community. “If you want to come here and take advantage of our hospital, our school and our welfare system, that is not what we are looking for. We are about the American dream for other people that they want to pursue in our community.”
Immigrants are taking jobs in feed lots, on dairy farms and in packing plants.
Helping veterans has always been a priority for Moran. He said veterans can finally receive medical services from their local doctor or hospital if the Veteran’s Administration doctor concurs.
At one time it was more about keeping VA hospitals full “and less about how we are able to care for veterans in this country,” he said. “Choice had problems in my view because VA didn’t want it to work.”
He said choice, where a veteran can get care from a civilian doctor within 40 miles of a VA medical facility, has been replaced.
“The law now says whatever is in the best interest of the veterans; it’s not miles, it’s not time, it is what is in the best interest of the veteran to be determined not by a bureaucrat at the VA but by the veteran’s individual health care provider at the VA.
“The goal here is to make sure that veterans know this exists.”
He said there are also benefits to the community.
“Just like our schools need every student, our hospitals need every patient. The more we utilize care in our community the better we strengthen the health care system for all of us,” he said.
Central Kansas Mental Health Center can also provide mental health services to veterans.
He said the veteran suicide rate is 20 per day.
“I once had a wheat farmer tell me, ‘Jerry, forget the rest of the world, let’s just take care of ourselves.’ What I wanted to say was, “What 48 percent of your acres that you farm do you not want to plant, cultivate or harvest?’ We produce more in Kansas than we can consume. How we make a living is what money we bring into somebody buying that wheat in Japan,” he said. “There is not a community in Kansas that doesn’t want to make someone, grow something, produce something and have the people who buy it live someplace else and the money come into your town. That is what trade does for us.”
He said the tariffs and the battle with China needs to be resolved.
The agreement with Mexico needs to be resolved. Mexico is the number one purchaser of ag products from Kansas in the world.
“Most of what my, particularly farmer, constituents tell me is that the president knows what he is doing; don’t worry about it. My response is that I hope that is the case. Maybe it is the case, but I am going to continue to hope the president and members of Congress know that trade and exports matter,” he said. “We ought not pick a fight with other countries. We need to quickly resolve our differences with China to make certain.”
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.