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Asylum seekers welcome in places like Iowa

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In this Thursday, March 14, 2019, photo, Jose Fermin Gonzalez Cruz holds his son, William Josue Gonzales Garcia, 2, as they wait with other families who crossed the nearby U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas, for Border Patrol agents to check names and documents. Immigration authorities say they expect the ongoing surge of Central American families crossing the border to multiply in the coming months. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Whether he’s advocating a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or threatening to completely shut down entries, President Trump is more about theatrics than logistics on immigration policy.

His latest idea: Send undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities — loosely defined as jurisdictions that refrain from cooperating with federal immigration authorities who want city jails to detain people who have not committed serious crimes.

He recently warned via tweet if “Democrats” don’t change immigration laws “Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the illegal immigrants — and this includes Gang Members, Drug dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds.”

Trump seems to think relocating immigrants to these places would be some kind of punishment.

Except many of those flooding the southern border in recent months are bedraggled families from Central America. They are fleeing violence and seeking economic opportunity. They present themselves to border agents with stories of husbands who were murdered and daughters who were raped.

They are looking for a job and a better life.

In fact, they are very much like the Southeast Asian refugees whom former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray helped settle after the Vietnam War. The Republican leader responded to a humanitarian crisis with compassion and practicality.

Can Trump send some of the southern immigrants to Iowa?

Though the United States cannot accept everyone seeking asylum, this state should gladly take some. Our population is aging. Companies cannot find employees to fill positions, particularly in the agriculture industry. We need people.

They are not going to simply appear. And since much of the country is experiencing the same demographic struggle, the people are going to need to come from other countries.

Iowans should be raising our hands to resettle more refugees.

“The crux of the problem is that we don’t have the people here,” the president of a manufacturing company told the Wall Street Journal in a 2018 story about Iowa’s labor plight. The hydraulic truck equipment producer could not find workers it needed for the second shift, resulting in the largest backlog of orders ever.

Employers across Iowa — from restaurants to agricultural operations to biotechnology companies — can tell similar stories about searching for good workers. Many industries compete for the same pool of people, and the pool is too small. That ultimately reduces the quality of employees and hurts business.

Also, this country’s heroin epidemic and the legalization of recreational marijuana in some states has resulted in more and more native job applicants failing employer drug tests. Companies are turning to refugees who pass the screening.

While the president cracks jokes and plays politics with immigration policy, this country needs more workers who buy homes, purchase goods and pay the federal taxes to fund everything from Medicare to Social Security.

If only this president would recognize the humanitarian and economic importance of attracting newcomers, particularly refugees.

Gov. Ray did it in the 1970s.

President Ronald Reagan did it in 1982 with a Christmas Day radio address in which he read a letter a U.S. soldier had written to his parents about rescuing refugees.

“I hope we always have room for one more person, maybe an Afghan or a Pole or someone else looking for a place where he doesn’t have to worry about his family starving or a knock on the door in the night,” wrote the young man.

The Republican president called the letter “a true Christmas story in the best sense.”

Where is that compassionate conservatism now? Where is the economic practicality?

We need it now because immigrants could be a boon to population-short regions, not the penalty Trump seems to think.

The Des Moines Register

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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