An immigrant made history in Kansas last week, becoming both the first Latino and first formerly undocumented immigrant to be promoted to deputy chief of the Wichita Police Department.
José Salcido, who arrived to the United States from Mexico when he was just nine years old, has been with the Wichita Police Department for over 20 years. Salcido became a legal permanent resident under legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and then a citizen in 1995.
In his inspiring story, Salcido tells NBC Latino that he knew he wanted to give back to the United States from a young age, enrolling first in the National Guard and then the police department where his hard work and dedication have been recognized in his historic promotion:
“I have been getting ready and working hard for this promotion for 10 years,” Salcido told NBC Latino. “I have been trying to do everything right and hit the books. It has been a long road to this promotion.” Salcido was formally promoted Wednesday afternoon.
Salcido, 45, was born in Santa Bárbara, Chihuahua, Mexico. When he was 9 years old, Salcido, his mother and two sisters migrated to Wichita. Thanks to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, Salcido became a legal permanent resident.
Always a self-reliant child, Salcido said was studious. That shows in his educational background.
Salcido earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish From Wichita State University in 1994, an MBA from Baker University in 2004 and finally a master’s degree in Military Operational Art and Science from the Air Command and Staff College-Air University with the United States Air Force in 2015.
From the moment he arrived in the U.S., he wanted to give back to the country, he said.
“I always wanted to be a police officer or an officer in the military, but I couldn’t do that because I was required to be a citizen for both,” Salcido said. “Thanks to the amnesty laws in the 1980s I was able to become a legal permanent resident. As soon as I received my citizenship card, I signed up for the National Guard.”
In NBC’s candidate Commander in Chief forum Wednesday night, GOP nominee Donald Trump said he considered undocumented immigrants who plan to serve in the military a “very special case.” Though he seemed to suggest immigrants here illegally who want serve would be allowed to remain in the U.S., he couched that with “if they get in.” Trump has called for requiring all immigrants here illegally to leave the country and apply to return through the legal immigration processes.
In 1995, Salcido became a U.S. citizen, and soon after signed up with the Wichita Police Department, where he has stayed ever since.
As Deputy Police Chief, Salcido will now be responsible for recruitment strategies in the police force. About 7 percent of the police force is Latino, and he hopes to double Hispanic presence.
“I wrote my Master’s thesis on policing in Ferguson and Baltimore, which advocated for better policing in communities of color,” Salcido said. “Being that I am the first Latino deputy chief of police, I think with any diversity, that brings a unique perspective as a person of color.”
From 2010 to 2015, the Census estimates the Hispanic population of Wichita County grew from 24.6 percent to 30.6 percent. In 2000, 33,112 Hispanics lived in Wichita, and in 2010 the Census found 58,348 Latinos.
“Long gone are the days you flood the area with cops to solve problems, you really have to work relationships,” Salcido said. “It doesn’t matter the color of the officer, it matters that they go in and blend into the community and they’re seen as natural as a mailman.”