An Iowan Reflects on the Arizona Immigration Law

image“If business managers like Rubashkin consistently complied with immigration law, the high profile raids like the ones in Postville and Marshalltown would not likely happen. More focus could be given to the human face of immigration.”

A friend of mine regularly leaves home in Phoenix and travels to the Arizona desert to replenish water supplies for people crossing from Mexico. She takes her children. For her, providing life saving water to the sojourner in our deserts who might need it is a political act and an act of faith. The recent passage of SB 1070, the Arizona Immigration Law is unlikely to change her practice.

Here in Iowa, the face of undocumented immigrants has many manifestations. Lately it has resembled Sholom Rubashkin, formerly manager of Agriprocessors, Inc. It is mostly because the 389 plant workers, who were arrested on immigration charges following a May 2008 raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, do not have a face of their own to most Iowans. If Rubashkin was remorseful, the sentencing on his conviction on 86 counts of financial fraud is expected to be in the news for weeks to come. The prosecution is asking for a 25 year sentence. We don’t ask what happened to the 389 workers.

As Blog for Iowa reported previously, the Department of Homeland Security reports that the number of undocumented immigrants has decreased because of the downturn in the United States economy. If companies like Agriprocessors, Inc. consistently complied with immigration law, the high profile raids like the ones in Postville and Marshalltown would not likely happen. More focus could be given to the human face of immigration. At the same time, compliance with immigration laws by employers would deter undocumented workers, representing one less reason for them to come. As the DHS data indicates, the poor economy in Mexico pushes workers north, across the border and the comparatively better economy in the United States pulls them here. At a macro level, this can be expected in a market-based economy.

Last week, after SB 1070 was signed by Governor Brewer, a Gallup poll indicated that 75% of Americans had heard of the law and among those who have heard of the law, 51% favor it and 39% oppose it. Tom Schaller’s analysis of this poll in is,

“What I suspect further polling will reveal is that a significant element of public support derives from a general empathy and encouragement Americans want to express toward Arizonans for doing something–anything–in the face of Washington’s continued foot-dragging. This is essentially the point–or, rather, one of the points–the highly-controversial Arizona anti-immigration icon Sheriff Joe Arpaio made this week: If nothing else, Arizona’s actions now force Washington’s hands…”

Like most Iowans, the author is not in close proximity to the immigrant issue. I receive phone calls asking where undocumented residents can seek medical care for life-threatening illnesses without losing their children. I see the busloads of workers heading west along Interstate 80. Based on the corporate logo on the side of the bus, they are heading for agricultural work, and may have a work permit. I hear about government money being spent to treat migrant workers who have the same chronic illnesses as you and me. The agencies don’t ask about immigration status. Friends in the labor movement complain about companies who are awarded contracts because the cost of immigrant labor is less. Immigration lies along the periphery of my life, and I suspect it is the same for many Iowans.

The author believes that as long as we maintain borders, we create a form of apartheid where the haves (in the US) will use the have-nots (in Mexico, China, India and Africa) to do their menial work here or in their countries, largely without social justice. The borders serve to keep them out, when we should be letting them in. America will grow stronger with open borders, even if most Americans and some Arizonans don’t believe it.

This entry was posted in Immigration, Main Page and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.