As the first state in the nation to hold its caucuses, Iowa sets the tone for the rest of the nation. The subject of immigration reform brought together Iowans on the front lines of immigration issues to convene with presidential candidates in an effort to find constructive, common ground.
“It’s an attempt to bring people from a wide range of perspectives and viewpoints together in productive conversation about one of the most pressing issues the United States and the communities face and that is immigration,” said Professor of Political Science at Buena Vista University, Bradley Best.
Presidential candidates and leaders from all sides of the political spectrum gathered to speak at the first-ever “Unite Iowa on Immigration Forum” held in Storm Lake, Iowa. The event is part of the Unite Iowa campaign designed to create a platform for thoughtful dialogue in the middle of a presidential caucus cycle.
The oldest and largest Hispanic organization in the United States–known as the the League of United Latin American Citizens– is one group that attended Saturday’s event.
“I’m here because we think immigration reform is one of the top priority issues impacting Latinos. We’re very concerned about the way this issue is being discussed, especially in the Republican primary,” said National Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Brent Wilkes.
The organization benefits millions of people around the country by providing resources to those in need, including technology and healthcare. It has been in Iowa for more than 80 years.
“If they want to work hard and contribute to our economy, we should find a way to do that legally instead of making it an illegal process that we currently have,” said National Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Brent Wilkes.
All presidential candidates were invited to attend the conversation dedicated to immigration, but only former governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, and former governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, attended the event.
“Rather than looking at immigration reform as some sort of check the box issue for this constituency group over here or over there, I believe we need to talk about this as a national economic comparative,” said presidential hopeful, Marin O’Malley.
Chafee expanded his discussion to issues regarding immigrants beyond the Americas.
“From all over the world, of course Hispanics, but also Southeast Asians, West Africans from Liberia and Ghana, refugees from war torn countries of Eritrea and Syria– and so we just have to deal with these issues, I think as public servants,” said presidential hopeful Lincoln Chafee.
The nonpartisan event drew in hundreds of Iowans. Organizers of the event say they hope it will make attendees more aware of immigration reform here in Iowa.