Thursday, January 31, 2008

As Pols Posture, A Reality Check On Immigration In Iowa

A Des Moines attorney who works primarily with Hispanic clients in Iowa says the Legislature should stay out of the immigration-enforcement business as the discussion of bills is having a negative impact withn an ethnic community vital for the state's future.

"It's a matter the state should leave alone. It's a federal matter," said Jamie Byrne, a bilingual attorney with Max Schott& Associates.

In conjunction with La Prensa, a western Iowa Spanish-language newspaper, Byrne presented a program earlier this week in Spanish on workers' rights in Denison at the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. After the forum, Byrne talked with Iowa Independent about the current debate on immigration the Hawkeye State.

A native of Cedar Rapids who is white, Byrne said the bills he's read about would have the practical effect of making all Iowans with brown skin into suspects.

"I think too many people believe that if you speak Spanish you're not legal," Byrne said.

Iowans seeking to go back to a racially homogenous time are in denial if they think the state can sustain a workforce without immigrants, Byrne said. New laws could result in a exodus of the people, the sheer numbers of living, breathing and working folks, Iowa so desparatley needs, he added.

"It's certainly going to hurt the smaller towns that have a large Hispanic population and feed off it," Byrne said.

Meanwhile, in Des Moines, Democrats and Republicans appear to be playing to big business and labor, the xenophonic and muliticultural celebrants on the respective wings, with little recognition of the reality in rural western Iowa. We need people.

“Future growth of the workforce should be through legal immigration," said Jim Gossett, a development official with Western Iowa Advantage and the Carroll Area Development Corp. "We need to be sure that new legislation does not go too far. Penalizing those who were never stopped from coming here in the first place and now are a productive part of the economy seems unfair to me.”

Western Iowa Advantage includes heavily Latino Crawford County.

At the statehouse Iowa Independent's Jay Wagner reports that Republicans are concerned about a Democratic-sponsored immigration bill that would level hefty fines on people who repeatedly employ illegal immigrants.

"The Democrats have proposed a fine for businesses that hire illegals but have attached it to pro-union legislation that businesses hate," State Sen. Jeff Angelo, R-Creston, told Iowa Independent. "My thought is that they will try to pass it knowing that Republicans will vote against the pro-union stuff and then have them on record voting against the immigration stuff. It is a pure political ploy."

A Republican plan that emerged from Angelo's own immigration task force proposed cutting off state assistance to undocumented people in Iowa (except in cases of emergencies) and a beefing up of enforcement.

House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines tells The Register the GOP plan amount to "an amnesty bill for corporate CEOs."

The story is cross-posted at Iowa, where it first appeared.

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