A bipartisan group of business, law enforcement and religious leaders have formed what they call the “Iowa Compact” in a push for immigration reform. Members of the group spoke today on a conference call about the five key principles of the compact. Perry Mayor Jay Pattee says the first principle is a belief that immigration reform should come from federal officials.

“We encourage Iowa’s congressional delegation to lead efforts towards developing common sense immigration policies that protect our borders and work to the good of all U.S. residents,” Pattee says. Pattee talked about estimates that show 40% of the population in Perry is Latino, and how the community has embraced that diversity. He criticized the presidential candidates for not having the same attitude.

“During the Republican presidential primary season, the rhetoric on immigration has reached a new low, this type of debate is not only extreme and divisive, but it serves as a distraction from a genuine policy debate. Today we are here because we believe there is a middle ground on immigration, and we can lead the way to do it here in Iowa,” Pattee says.

Perry police chief Dan Brickner says another principal of the compact is “smart enforcement” of immigration laws. “Authorities should avoid policies that have negative economic and humanitarian consequences for our communities, this is the right approach,” according to Brickner.

“As the Perry police chief I see how communities become less safe when residents fear reporting crime to local law enforcement. We have to be able to use our limited resources efficiently in keeping our communities safe.” The third principle, “keeping families together,” follows the idea of “smart enforcement.”

Martha Willits, C.E.O. of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, spoke to the 4th principle of “meeting the economic needs” of the state. “Those of us in the business community have been able to talk with colleagues across the country and we’ve watched how ‘enforcement only’ legislation impacted economies in Alabama, not to the good, and we don’t want to be in those positions,” Willits says.

The fifth principle is “being a culturally rich and welcoming state.” Mary Kramer, a former state legislator and former ambassador to the Eastern Carribean, says she’s seen first hand the importance of Iowa’s legacy of welcoming and supporting immigrants.

“As a former ambassador, I not only realize the value of the work and productivity that people bring to us here, but I realize the value of the remittance that is sent home to family members in poor and developing countries, which is a large part of their revenue. I think it needs to be reminding us that we are a part of a larger community,” Kramer explains.

The group wants Iowans who’re interested in their ideas to sign on to the compact. You can do so by going to their website at: www.iowacompact.com.