An immigration reform activist from California and a researcher from a Washington, D.C. think tank that highlights “free market” principles held a series of events in Iowa on Thursday to share the same view: it’s time for a new U.S. policy on immigration.
Dan Griswold, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies, says immigration “has been good” for the State of Iowa. “This is a state that has a slow-growing population and immigrants have helped to address some labor force issues, but also the citizens of Iowa would be even better off if we had expanded legal immigration,” Griswold says. “We need to change our immigration system so that more workers can enter the country legally.This will reduce illegal immigration and help produce better-paying, middle-class jobs for the citizens of Iowa.”
Raul Hinojosa is founding director of the California-based North American Integration and Development Center. He hopes Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants is a wake-up call to federal policymakers who’ve been unable or unwilling to find a solution.
“We know we needed half-a-million unskilled workers from immigrants for the last 25 years and we only have a legal system of bringing in about 6000 unskilled workers,” Hinojosa says. “That’s obviously a broken system which is going to lead toward undocumented immigration. We have to move towards a system that makes much more logical sense given our economic needs and our competitive requirements into the 21st century.”
The two men were invited to Iowa by the “Iowa Immigration Education Coalition” and both noted immigration is a topic in “the heartland” partly because of the high-profile immigration raids at meatpacking plants in Postville and Marshalltown. Griswold says those raids illustrate the ongoing labor-market needs of Iowa.
“Nobody’s in favor of illegal immigration,” Griswold says. “The best situation would be to change our immigration laws so these workers can enter the U.S. legally in the above-ground economy and help build a stronger, more prosperous Iowa.”
The two men made four appearances together in Des Moines on Thursday, appearing at a Rotary Club over the lunch hour and in a church last night. “This particular visit, along with my partner Dan Griswold who represents more of a right-leaning think tank and I, who am working with a more Democratic, left-leaning Center for American Progress, it’s extremely important that we both come together because we agree on so many things, come to the heartland, and make this presentation,” Hinojosa says.
He says it’s clear from his visit to Iowa that there’s sentiment in “the heartland” for immigration reform.