As Presidential candidates flock to Iowa to campaign for the first-in-the-nation caucuses, community leaders from the state have invited contenders to a special forum later this month that will focus squarely on the issue of immigration reform.
The forum will feature voices from the state’s immigrant, business, political, educational, and faith communities, including local politician and economics professor Sam Clovis, businessman Joe Crookham, DREAM Iowa co-founder and DREAMer Monica Reyes, and Iowa Immigrant Voice Director Sandra Sanchez (more participants are to be announced soon, according to organizers).
Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson will moderate the forum.
Forum organizers have invited candidates from all Presidential campaigns to participate — so far, Democratic candidates Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee have accepted the invitation — and the non-partisan event is intended to feature perspectives from both Democrats and Republicans:
“I launched #UniteIowa this year as a way to try to bring my fellow Iowans together to talk in person about issues that tend to divide us – and divide us bitterly,” Munson said. “As a columnist who roams the state I feel that it’s my job to advocate for Iowa as a whole, beyond any particular special interest.”
While Congress continues to roadblock a humane, permanent solution for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, Iowans know first-hand that immigration reform is an essential part of keeping Iowa communities up and running.
77% of Iowans support immigration reform, and 37,000 Iowans are undocumented immigrants. In 2010, those undocumented Iowans paid $64.1 million in state and local taxes, and the state’s GDP would see an increase of $765,000,000 under President Obama’s immigration actions (DAPA and DACA+ are currently stalled due to a partisan, Republican-led lawsuit).
Storm Lake, where the forum is to be held, is a community locally recognized as the most racially and ethnically diverse in the state. The public school system boasts over 20 languages, and is more than 80% non-white in its student body. In fact, much of the growth in Storm Lake’s population over the past two decades can be attributed to new immigrants.
Joe Enriquez Henry, state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), hopes the forum helps keep the issue of immigration reform at the foreground of the political conversation:
“For too long, immigration has been discussed by some in the political arena using false information or incomplete data in order to garner votes,” said Henry. “Many Americans do not understand the history and complexity of immigration in our country. We can provide some insight on the issue with this presidential forum,” he said.
Buena Vista University Professor of Political Science Lisa Best, also a co-organizer of the forum, added: “The #UniteIowa on Immigration forum is a unique opportunity for the 2016 presidential candidates to have a constructive and distinctly civil conversation with Iowans from across the political spectrum.”
The #UniteIowa on Immigration Forum, organized by Iowa leaders and moderated by Kyle Munson of the Des Moines Register, will be held on Saturday, August 29 at 2:30pm. For more information on the forum, including registration, directions and location, visit the #UniteIowa website: IowaImmigration.org