Iowa Governor Chet Culver landed an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday. The national media was in Des Moines following President Barack Obama’s second visit to Iowa in as many months.
When Governor Culver deflected the issue to say his Legislature wouldn’t send him a bill like that he was stating the obvious. We can’t expect the current Iowa legislature to take a stand on illegal immigration. Then he said, “we have to enforce the current immigration laws, illegal means illegal.” That’s interesting, then he must be in favor of Arizona’s law because that is all their law does – it enforces current federal statutes on illegal immigration.
In 2007, Governor Culver supported immigration law enforcement specifically by targeting companies who hire illegal immigrants. In 2008 after ICE raided the Agriprocessors in Postville. He made the following statement:
The state’s role in today’s exercise has been limited. The Department of Public Safety is providing traffic support on the scene, and if additional criminal activity is discovered through the course of the exercise, the DCI is prepared to investigate at the state level.
I believe it is important that we crack down on illegal immigration. Illegal means illegal. Not just those who cross the border, but also those who are responsible for helping make it happen — traffickers, identity thieves, those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and anyone who has taken advantage of employees or turned a blind eye. At the same time we must take care to protect due process, and consider the impact on a small community and the people involved.
My Administration has made clear to the federal government the importance of ensuring the humanitarian side of this exercise is addressed in the community, and I have received assurances from the federal government that they are doing so.
Again, “illegal means illegal” and the state’s role has been limited (like not involved at all – it was completely a federal operation). From the start it was all talk, because it would seem that Governor Culver was completely unaware of what was going on at Agriprocessors. If he did, why did he wait to do something about it? Why didn’t he order the Department of Criminal Investigation to investigate instead of waiting for ICE to get invovled?
Because he isn’t serious about illegal immigration, and neither was former Governor Tom Vilsack before him. Actually Patti Brown at The Iowa Republican notes that Vilsack opened the door to our problem.
A decade ago Gov. Tom Vilsack feared that Iowa’s population of 2.8 million was stagnant and that the state would need more low-skilled workers –some 310,000– to take jobs in meat packing plants and to work as nurses’ aids in care centers. Vilsack’s “Iowa 2010 Plan” strategically recruited workers from Mexico and Central America to come to Iowa, which was being referred to as “an immigration enterprise zone.” The recruitment process was less concerned with the technicalities of legal immigration than growing the state’s population with a serf labor class. As the immigrants began arriving and settling into many rural towns across the state, including Postville and Marshalltown, Iowa officials looked the other way on the question of legal residency.
And since, in typical fashion, Governor Culver has done nothing to address the situation choosing to talk tough but look the other way. Two of the Republican candidates for Governor today said enough as Bob Vander Plaats said he would pursue legislation similar to Arizona’s here in Iowa and said that Governor Culver’s rhetoric has not been matched with action. Touting some concrete ideas on this issue State Representative Rod Roberts said that his administration would take on immigration enforcement since the federal government has failed in its role:
Roberts said his administration would require proper documentation of legal residency before providing benefits to people applying for government assistance. He also would advocate taking punitive measures against businesses or employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. He said he would take “a serious look” at implementing a law similar to Arizona given the federal “unwillingness” to address the issue that has angered and frustrated American citizens.
“I believe the federal government has failed the states, I think it’s failed the citizens to enforce the laws that are already on the books,” he said. “Unless the federal government steps up and does something, every state is going to follow suit, and Iowa should proactively look at the challenge we have here.”
Roberts estimated that state government spends up to $92 million in benefits to people who do not have legal status to be in Iowa. He said that taking away access to those benefits would take away the incentive for undocumented residents to stay in Iowa.
So far former Governor Terry Branstad has not weighed in on this issue. Immigration law enforcement was not an expected issue in this race, but it will be an issue.