I watch the news every morning, but by now the political commercials are driving me crazy — one after another attacking each other. Like many of you, I cannot wait until Election Day so I don’t have to listen to one more commercial.
Most Republican commercials have a theme: don’t vote for the socialists, they are like the boogie man and I am going to make you afraid of them. But there’s one that caught my attention. It’s a Joni Ernst ad featuring the mother of Sarah Root, a 21-year-old woman killed in a 2016 crash in Council Bluffs. The drunk driver who hit Sarah was in the country illegally.
Sarah’s mother Michelle says in the Ernst campaign ad: “Sarah was my youngest child, killed by an illegal immigrant. A judge let him out on bail, and he fled. Joni Ernst is fighting to keep violent illegal immigrants behind bars.”
I totally feel for Sarah’s mother, I really do, because many years ago I lost a family member when a truck driver crossed the lane and crashed head-on, killing my beloved 28-year-old brother. But that does not make me blame all truck drivers. I feel for Michelle Root because, besides losing her child, it seems to me that this tragedy has been exploited by Republicans (especially Ernst) to create hatred and gain points with those who are already afraid of people who look different than them.
This is not the first time politicians use someone’s loss to incite hate. Every time an undocumented person commits a crime, some Republicans, starting with this president, are quick to judge an entire community because of one person. We all remember the case of Mollie Tibbetts and how Republicans in Iowa and Donald Trump used her death to promote connections between illegal immigration and violent crime.
Ernst’s ad makes her look like a caring mother who will fight against crimes committed against the young, but we all must question if she cares for all young people or just some. Will she speak up against all crimes or just the ones that fit her anti-immigrant agenda?
About a year ago I was part of a call to Sen. Ernst organized by Moms Against the Camps, a group of women who were outraged regarding the detention centers at the border and the many children kept in cages. The phone call was extremely frustrating for all involved due to her lack of empathy and understanding. I was able to talk to her and ask her as a mother and a woman if she was OK with so many kids in cages. Her response was empty, citing that we are a country of laws, ending the conversation by hanging up on the group of about 50 people.
One would ask why Sen. Ernst is so vocal in her fight against crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and not against kids being detained in cages at the border. As in most cases, we just need to follow the money.
Private prisons are run like hotels that need to maintain full capacity, and to do that, they need laws that help them do exactly that. These private prisons contribute to lawmakers’ campaigns, such as that of Sen. Ernst. The senator received $8,175 in campaign donations from the for-profit prison industry in 2020, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Although Ernst visited a facility on the southern border in July 2019, her statements do not encompass a comprehensive solution to the crisis. Her emphasis on “protecting the border” lack full understanding about asylum laws and foreign policy that could help the senator better articulate an opinion for a more comprehensive solution.
The hypocrisy of Ernst and many other Republicans is astounding. One cannot speak of violence committed to some and disregard violence committed to others.
Same goes for Republicans’ pro-life beliefs on abortion. Children died at the border on their watch, yet they don’t speak up nor do they offer a compassionate word to the parents. The only thing I can think of is that the children at the border are brown — they were born and now they are gone.
When it comes to COVID-19, the hypocrisy exceeds my understanding. It is impossible, in my view, to be pro-life but brush off the deaths of more than 230,000 Americans just because the president of your party is in power.
The 2020 election cycle will be over soon, but we cannot forget the words of our elected officials. Words can unify a country or divide it. Ernst continues to contribute to our division and my hope is that her status will change on Nov. 3.
The Latino community is sick and tired of politicians using our undocumented brothers and sisters as scapegoats. We need comprehensive immigration reform, but Sen. Ernst will follow Republicans in objecting to every attempt to do so. There is so much at stake on Tuesday — the humanity of our state is top of mind.
Sen. Ernst is in a tight race. Let’s send her back to Red Oak and not to her comfortable condo in D.C.
By Claudia Thrane
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