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ICYMI: Iowa Voters Question GOP “Tough Talk” On Immigration

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Julie Bosman of the New York Times Captures Growing Disconnect Between Average American Voter and the GOP’s Anti-Immigrant Positions

As the 2016 Republican field continues to follow Donald Trump on his increasingly rapid lurch to the right on immigration, Julie Bosman notes in her recent piece in the New York Times—Iowan’s aren’t buying it. Bosman’s must read article explores why voters in Muscatine, Iowa—a microcosm of small town America—are skeptical of the recent rightward shift in the 2016 candidates’ immigration rhetoric.

Although Donald Trump continues to dominate headlines with his latest attacks against immigrants and their families, Bosman’s piece as well as the recent #UniteIowa on Immigration Forum in Storm Lake, IA are reminders that public opinion on immigration is far more nuanced than some may think. While Trump-esque rhetoric might play well in the early days of the Presidential campaign, as Bosman’s article suggests, those candidates striking hardline positions now, may end up paying a high political cost for their anti-immigrant positions during the general election.

The full piece is available online here and key excerpts follow below: 

“Like many voters in Iowa, Ben Hoopes has been listening closely to all the tough talk about illegal immigration coming from the Republican presidential candidates who have crisscrossed his state every week.

There was Donald J. Trump’s plan to build an impenetrable wall across the border and force Mexico to share the cost. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said that immigrants who do not fully integrate and learn English are guilty of ‘invasion.’ Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, last weekend suggested tracking new immigrants like human FedEx packages.

Mr. Hoopes, 33, a salesman and Republican voter in Muscatine, believes something needs to be done about unauthorized workers in Iowa, so he welcomes the attention to the issue. But he worries: Are the candidates telling the crowds only what they want to hear? Is a complicated issue becoming oversimplified?

‘It’s just a show right now,’ Mr. Hoopes said, pausing from his job at a carpet store downtown. ‘I heard today that Scott Walker might want to build a wall on the Canadian border. I didn’t realize illegal Canadian immigration was such a big problem.’

Perhaps more than in many parts of this region, residents in Muscatine County, in eastern Iowa, have developed a nuanced view of the immigration issue, informed by time, proximity and experience. Well over a thousand miles from the Mexican border, Muscatine County’s farms, factories and meat-processing plants have long been a draw for immigrants, causing the foreign-born population in the county to more than double since 1990.

In more than two dozen interviews here this week, Republican voters said they agreed with candidates that illegal immigration might be costing too much in taxpayer money for schools, health care and welfare. But they also said that Latino immigrants can boost the economy by taking grueling jobs that many Americans do not want, such as detasseling corn and processing meat in factories throughout Iowa.

‘I’m as prejudiced as the day is long,’ said Chuck Coghill, who runs a sign company in the rural town of Blue Grass with his wife, Michelle. ‘It’s a bad thing that all these illegal Mexicans are here.’ He paused. ‘But they’re hard workers. They’re doing jobs that lazy Americans won’t do.’

Some voters said that many Latinos they know, regardless of immigration status, were as Iowan as anybody, having raised families and attended schools and churches in their communities.

DeWayne M. Hopkins, the mayor of Muscatine, said that many migrant workers came to the area generations ago, in the 1950s, to work in the tomato fields, then stayed to raise their families. White people make up about 81 percent of the population in Muscatine County, compared with 89 percent statewide, and Latinos account for about 16 percent. Eight percent of county residents indicated that they were both white and Hispanic, according to census data.

‘If you see a young middle-school Latino lad on the street, he probably doesn’t even speak Spanish,’ Mr. Hopkins said.

Carolyn Lamp, the owner of a secondhand furniture store in the town of West Liberty, where more than half the residents are Latino, said she was impressed after hearing Mr. Jindal talk about immigration on ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday. But she also worried that he was taking a narrow view of the problem.

‘He’s basically proposing to shut down the borders,’ she said, sitting in her shop on a humid afternoon this week. ‘That’s fine to say. But I think there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s not a cut-and-dried issue.’

Haydee Avalos, 51, one of Mr. Hoopes’s employers at the carpet store, said that as the daughter of Mexican immigrants she was regularly taunted for being Hispanic when she was growing up in Iowa. ‘I’m an anchor baby,’ she said pointedly, echoing the phrase recently used by former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida


Ms. Avalos said she has found the discussion of immigration policy from Mr. Trump frustrating, though she has voted Republican in the past.

‘There’s just too much negativity,’ Ms. Avalos said. ‘Donald Trump was on the news the other day and started in on it, and I just turned it off.’”

Click here to read more.

Learn more about the #UniteIowa on Immigration Forum  here. Watch a video of the forum here.