Thursday, December 13, 2007

Booming immigration in some Iowa counties makes it a major issue for the presidential caucuses

In 1851, the five-year-old state of Iowa created Buena Vista County, naming it for a great battle of the Mexican War. Now some call the county seat of Storm Lake "Little Mexico," because it has recently become home to many Hispanic immigrants. Similar influxes in other rural areas, scattered across the state, have made immigration a big issue for voters in the state's Jan. 3 presidential caucuses.

The irony of the county's name was lost on The New York Times, which has a story today in which Monica Davey reports from Storm Lake as the epicenter of the immigration issue in Iowa. The story is accompanied by excellent maps with graphic representations of the county-by-county impact of immigration. Here's one:Davey writes, "The nation’s struggle over immigration may seem distant in states like Iowa, hundreds of miles from any border, but the debate is part of daily life here, more than ever now as residents prepare to pick a president. Nearly all of more than two dozen people interviewed here last week said they considered immigration policy at or near the top of their lists of concerns as they look to the presidential caucuses next month. And yet, nearly everyone interviewed said that none of the political candidates had arrived at a position on immigration that fully satisfied them. In real life, they said, the issues surrounding immigration, both legal and illegal, were far more complicated than bumper sticker slogans or jabs on a debate stage or even the carefully picked language of campaign policy papers." (Read more)

As noted here 11 days ago, the weekly Storm Lake Times is pro-immigration. "Thousands of immigrants have worked in our town’s two meatpacking plants, working hard, hoping for a better life for their children, sending money home to Mexico and other nations to help their families left behind. They build businesses and churches, they add color and richness, they learn English as they can and they help an isolated rural community grow and prosper," wrote Art Cullen. "Yes, we need secure borders. We need to know just who is living and working in Storm Lake. We also need workers in our meatpacking plants as the first generation moves up the economic ladder. If we don’t cut the meat here, be assured that the meat will get cut somewhere else and those jobs are lost to us. What we really need is to open up the immigration quotas to fill our low-skilled, medium-skilled and high-skilled job shortages." (Read more)

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