America’s immigration surges are also an Iowa problem, say immigration experts, despite Gov. Kim Reynolds’s recent admittal that she declined federal requests to accept migrant children in Iowa, noting their settlement in the U.S. is President Joe Biden’s “problem.”
The Republican governor told WHO radio on Thursday that Iowa was asked to house some of the surges of immigrant children currently at the U.S. Mexico border.
“We don’t have the facilities. We are not set up to do that. This is not our problem. This is the president’s problem. He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it,” she said.
Critics say Reynolds’ remarks fail to acknowledge her grasp of the current immigration problem and that Iowa, a state with dominant meatpacking, egg, and dairy industries, is heavily reliant on these surges to fill labor demands.
“[The border surge] directly affects Iowa. Absolutely,” said Ricardo Salvador, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“There is a tremendous contradiction here and that’s due to basic economics … The United States and Iowa in particular have accepted waves of prior immigrants in order to provide the labor and do the work. These folks are adding value, these folks are building wealth in these industries. Without what they do, we don’t eat.”
The demands of labor in industries like agriculture are not being met domestically, primarily because the wages are low.
Iowa Governor @KimReynoldsIA says border surge is 'not our problem,' declines federal request for help with child migrants.
Until Iowa can staff its meat packing, egg, and dairy operations without migrant labor, it IS Iowa’s business.
— Ricardo J Salvador (@cadwego) April 9, 2021
Salvador said that the current wave of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border aren’t unusual as the weather warms up, though Republicans like Reynolds have been using the increase as a political talking point.
“There is definitely a Republican strategy to frame the annual spring surge of immigration on what they’re calling Biden opening up the border without any restrictions for immigrants to flood the United States, and then to frame that as if A) it were unusual, and B) dangerous, as if these folks are waves of criminals or a drain on the economy. As I’ve mentioned, they are a net addition to the economy because they fill labor shortages.”
Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice Director Erica Johnson said that her recent comments proved the Governor’s misinterpretation of the border crisis.
Johnson said her organization has reached out to the Governor a number of times, especially during the pandemic as immigrant communities were subject to harsh treatment in manufacturing and agricultural plants, with no response.
“Her remarks were callous, not surprising, disappointing and par for the course. She attempted to blame the Biden administration for this problem, which shows that she’s totally out of touch with what goes on at the border and the patterns of human migration that have gone on forever,” said Johnson.
“And despite every effort we’ve made to connect with her on these issues, she hasn’t really reached out to educate herself on what’s going on.”
But Salvador said that Reynolds’ comments won’t be a sufficient deterrent stopping migration to the state because of their economic desperation.
“Their desperation is much greater than whether the Governor is posturing or whether she’s genuinely ignorant of how much her state is dependent on this flux of immigrants,” he said.
by Isabella Murray
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