Democrats haven’t been nearly aggressive enough in promoting immigration. It’s another one of those progressive messages that Democrats have been too timid to embrace. Yes, they have forcefully condemned the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from President Trump and other Republicans, but as many political pundits remind Democrats, it’s not enough to be against something. Voters want their candidates to be for something and be persuaded with positive messages of passion and inspiration.
Democrats have been playing defense on immigration rather than offense. It’s time to go on offense and convince voters why immigration is a benefit to them. It’s in Iowans’ (and Americans) self-interest to welcome immigrants and there’s plenty of evidence to support that assertion. It’s not only the right thing to do; it is economically beneficial to Iowa.
Unfortunately, fear and hate are powerful motivating factors for voters. President Trump and other Republicans like Congressman Steve King have been much more effective at scaring voters. Their fearmongering has worked by convincing voters that immigrants are criminals, they’re taking our jobs and they’re terrorists. They told voters they would protect them with a wall, they would deport these criminals, they would save jobs and they would ban terrorists.
Democrats and other progressives must unite in defeating the Republican narrative that immigrants are to be hated and feared. Democrats have a very compelling story to tell about the overwhelming contributions immigrants have made and continue to make “America Great!”
There was a powerful article in the New York Times this week that highlights the crucial and positive transformation immigrants have had on one Iowa town. Storm Lake, Iowa is profiled as an Iowa town alive and growing thanks to immigrants.
“Other communities our size are shrinking and consolidating school districts,” said Mark Prosser, the police chief. “We have schools bulging at the seams. There are expensive challenges, but which one do you want: a dying community or one that has growth?”
There is a powerful new grassroots immigration movement that is rapidly spreading across America focusing on positive immigrant accomplishments and contributions. The “Welcoming America” movement is gaining ground. Its mission statement explains their goals:
“Welcoming America leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by making everyone feel like they belong. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors who are vital to the success of our communities and shared future.”
Modeled on the national Welcoming America group several Iowa cities are considering adopting Welcoming City resolutions. In January, Iowa City unanimously approved a “Welcoming City” resolution that clearly defines the role local law enforcement will have on immigrants.
“We intend to keep (Iowa City) a safe and welcoming place for all its residents and visitors,” Mayor Jim Throgmorton said. “If undocumented residents fear they will be deported simply for being undocumented, they will avoid reporting to the police crimes they witness or have committed against them.”
On May 8th over 100 activists turned out to present a “Welcoming City” resolution to the Des Moines City Council. Organized by Iowans for Community Improvement (CCI) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), they are asking the City to approve an ordinance written to designate Des Moines as a “Welcoming City.” One of the prime goals is to erase the ambiguity in immigrant law enforcement. However, a CCI spokesperson explained that the resolution is much broader than just clarifying law enforcement issues.
“Immigrants breathe life into Des Moines through their culture, labor, and entrepreneurship. It’s time we put our promises into practice through a tangible and enforceable ordinance,” said CCI board member Vanessa Marcano-Kelly.
Following the introduction of the resolution, CCI is holding teach-ins on the resolution. Those teach-ins provide important background information supporting the resolution. CCI provides some powerful economic data from the New American Economy that supports the contributions that immigrants make to Des Moines.
The data shows that 48,760 immigrant residents in Des Moines (who account for roughly 8 percent of the area’s population) positively impact the local economy through their high rates of workforce participation, large tax contributions, and spending power.
Immigrants in Des Moines contributed roughly $3.2 billion to the metro area’s GDP in 2014.
The foreign-born population of metro Des Moines contributed more than $100 million in state and local taxes.
CCI plans to work with Des Moines Council Members to pass an ordinance mirroring their resolution. In addition, they plan to encourage other Iowa cities to embrace the “Welcoming City” concept.
by Rick Smith