Iowa's new immigration
Situated in the landlocked heart of America, Iowa may seem immune to the influx of undocumented workers in border states. But this week a panel, three documentaries, a debate and a student activism workshop suggest that Iowa may be the next battleground in illegal immigration.
One of the main presenters during the symposium was Arizona representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). Despite millions of dollars of federal funding being poured into border security, her state has experienced an increasing number of undocumented workers. According to Sinema, this has caused a strong anti-immigrant backlash in Arizona. "Do I think this is going to happen to the whole country? Yes, I do."
Symposium organizer Luis Fernandez, Sociology is afraid the nation may become more hostile to immigrants. "Things are looking kind of dark right now. I'm hoping, at the very least, that the anti-immigrant feelings [and] fervor that exist in Arizona does not come to Iowa," he said.
Iowa is changing as a result of Latino immigration. "Twenty-thousand Hispanics [are] now living in Iowa as students, as students enrolled in public schools," said Danny Carroll (R-Grinnell). "The law of supply and demand being what it is, people are willing to come here and work, so it's more of a challenge now than it was [10 years ago]."
Anna Murphey '07 was one of several students who helped organize the symposium. "We don't need to have a crisis before we can get together and address an issue," she said. "Ultimately, we should look at the U.S. foreign policy and examine the root causes underlying economic inequality that are causing so many hundreds of people to have to emigrate to the US."
Iowa is less likely than many other states to experience widespread anti-immigrant hostility because its native-born population is decreasing. "We need workers and we need people here to have kids for this state to grow," said Fernandez.
Carroll believes that the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants with an Iowa high school diploma to attend Iowa universities as Iowa residents, is the most helpful piece of legislation currently being debated. "They're Iowans, they've been here for several years, they're going to go to school here, let's get them a college education and help them be productive taxpayers."
The most highly anticipated event of the symposium was a Tuesday afternoon debate between Mark Grey, director of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration at the University of Northern Iowa, and Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a new group that arranges civilian patrols of the U.S.-Mexican border.
"The organizers have been criticized by some people for bringing someone who they perceive as a racist to campus," said Murphey, "but whether we agree with the ideology or tactics of the Minutemen, they are a grassroots organization that is having a documented effect on national policy."
"We're bringing a very vocal bigot to campus to tell us all about how he doesn't like immigrants," said Indira Vazquez '07. Vazquez and her parents left their home in Mexico and crossed the border into the U.S. when she was four, making her family undocumented immigrants.
An estimated 200-230 people attended the debate. A post-debate survey administered by the Student Campaign for Increased Political Engagement revealed that while most Grinnellians attending the debate overwhelmingly agreed with Grey's position, roughly 43 percent of students felt the debate had no clear winner.
Vasquez felt the debate was disappointing. "I thought Grey was more of an entertainer than a debater," she said.
She claimed that the Minute Men are trained to hide their true activities from the media, not help immigrants. "[Simcox] said they actually give [illegal immigrants] food and water," she said, "I don't see how slashing water tanks is really helping them."
Simcox was calm as he presented himself and his ideas as straight-forward common sense. "I represent a group of citizens who had no choice but to stand up for the defense of their community," he said. Vasquez rebutted that the neigborhood watches don't combat the source of increased crime rates, like drug cartels.
Gray reminded the audience that no American is unaffected by illegal immigration. "We're all part of this integrated economy that takes full advantage of the presence of illegal immigrants."
My what a fair and balanced article. No bias whatsoever. Very evenhanded and well written.
I wonder why the dope-smoking-aclu-observers are unable to catch the Minutemen doing anything illegal
(they DID catch Hannity crossing the border to illustrate the ease, and demanded that HE be arrested)