Iowa Republicans latest attacks on immigrants have their agricultural constituents worried about losing their critical workforce. Following the tragic murder of Mollie Tibbitts, Republicans from Trump on down saw an opportunity to attack Democrats on the issue of a broken immigration system. Trump immediately blamed Tibbetts murder by an undocumented immigrant on Democrats.
“Democrat immigration policies are destroying innocent lives and spilling very innocent blood,” Trump said. “We believe that any party that puts criminal aliens before American citizens should be out of office, not into office.”
Governor Reynolds, Senator Grassley and Senator Ernst all wasted no time in blaming the broken immigration system as well. Reynolds said she was, “angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community.”
“Too many Iowans have been lost at the hands of criminals who broke our immigration laws. We cannot allow these tragedies to continue,” Grassley and Ernst said in a joint statement.
Following Reynolds, Grassley and Ernst’s knee-jerk response, it was discovered that the undocumented immigrant who allegedly killed Tibbets was vetted and hired by a well-known Republican farmer.
It was Craig Lang, a former Farm Bureau president, former Board of Regents member and GOP candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture that employed this undocumented immigrant. Not only was this Republican farm family responsible for hiring and employing this undocumented immigrant for five years, they later admitted they failed to use the E-Verify system. The E-Verify system is the recommended and most effective way to properly determine an immigrant’s status.
When Lang ran for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, he claimed he wanted to implement a fool-proof immigration system.
“During my campaign, I talked about the need for a comprehensive, traceable worker program for this country,” Craig Lang said.
While this Iowa Republican and former Farm Bureau leader was campaigning for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture on a platform in favor of a traceable immigration system, he was failing to follow best practices in hiring immigrants for his own farm. The Lang family now says they will use E-Verify in the future.
The reality is that Iowa farmers desperately need immigrant labor to survive. The Lang family’s failure to use E-Verify is an example of Iowa’s agricultural leader’s willingness to cut corners rather than complying with the current immigration laws. It’s estimated that Iowa’s economy depends on its 84,000 immigrant workers, many without legal documentation.
“Agriculture wouldn’t be possible, because of the amount of immigrant labor needed in the dairy industry, in the hog industry, in the cattle industry,” said Kent Pruismann former Iowa Cattlemen’s Association president said.
The Farm Bureau, as one of the largest voices for agriculture, understands that hiring immigrants is essential to fill the critical workforce demands of agriculture. The official Farm Bureau policy opposes using E-Verify without an expansion of the guest worker program.
“Requiring agricultural employers to use E-Verify without assuring that a workable guest worker program is in place could have a significant, negative impact on U.S. farm production, threatening the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers in labor-intensive agriculture … leading to an increase in food prices by 5 to 6 percent,” according to the American Farm Bureau, February, 2018.
Republicans will likely continue to lie about who’s responsible for a broken immigration system as long as they see it as an effective political tool. They can blame Democrats, but the reality is that many Iowa farmers very survival depends on a large immigrant work force.
The GOP believes they can use the fear of immigrants to scare voters into voting for Republican candidates. Farmers know better; the vast majority of their immigrant workers are hardworking, honest and trusted employees. The Craig Lang’s of the world better speak up for immigrants and tell Republicans to stop bashing their essential workers.
Iowa farmers can’t allow Republican politicians to use this isolated murder by an undocumented immigrant as an excuse to shape national immigration policy. Molly Tibbetts murder was a tragedy, but using it to vilify all immigrants would be a national catastrophe. The agricultural community must demand Republicans quit blaming Democrats and do their job by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
by Rick Smith