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For a growing number of immigrants, home is far west Kansas in a city of 28,000, a world away from Mogadishu, Mexico City and Myanmar.By 2050, the Census Bureau predicts, the United States will have a new ethnic minority: non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic residents — who may be of any race — make up another 45 percent, with African-Americans, Asian-Americans and a variety of immigrants rounding out the rest. Census will show non-Hispanic whites as the minority in as many as four Kansas counties: Finney, Seward, Grant and Ford. Non-Hispanic whites for years have been a minority in Wyandotte County, which has significant African-American and Hispanic populations.Crime rates have stabilized now, but last month police met with representatives of each ethnic group to discuss a new strategy that will place an officer in each neighborhood.
"This town is different," Flores said while taking his 2-year-old daughter, Adaliz, to a local carnival. I think they're used to it." School Superintendent Rick Atha agreed. Imagine the challenge of teaching 3,000 schoolchildren who speak a language other than English."But we need a place for us in the cemetery." While most in town are handling the religious differences well, the request touched off a debate that exposed some holes in the city's seemingly strong ethnic tapestry."We've been too politically correct for too long," said Leonard Hitz, a former Marine, retired banker and self-described cowboy poet.Schools are searching for more money to hire interpreters. Long-time residents are adapting to neighbors who look, cook and speak differently. Arizona sparked a political firestorm earlier this year by passing a law to crack down on illegal immigration. Meat-packing centers such as Garden City offer an attractive destination during a down economy, with plentiful jobs that require few skills and little training.Just last week, residents in Fremont, Neb., approved a law prohibiting businesses and landlords from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants. The non-Hispanic white population is aging and its birth rates falling. Like their predecessors, immigrants bring their own cultures.Last month, Somali residents ruffled some feathers in Garden City after they requested a Muslim-only section in the city cemetery for religious reasons."This is our home now," said Abdulkadir Mohamed, a Somali Muslim and translator at the Tyson plant who moved here in 2006."This community doesn't look like it once did in the '50s and '60s," said former Mayor Nancy Harness. They bring children." Lunch break at the Tyson plant erupts into a riot of language and color."But you know, the communities that look the same way they did back then? Tall Somali women glide by in flowing red and green gowns."If you want to come to this country and be an American, you're welcome.But learn the language and assimilate." While other rural Kansas communities see populations dwindle and economies decline as their young people move away, Garden City is growing.