Two weeks have passed since an immigration forum at a Bettendorf church ignited what has been a wrenching controversy in our community.
Attended by the Republican Party candidates for Iowa’s open 2nd District congressional seat, and sponsored by a teen Republican club, the event featured speakers who conjured up some of the worst stereotypes about immigrants.
It also featured offensive remarks from a right-wing activist who called for curbs on all immigration in the United States. He complained the political left is antithetical to “white American values” and that even immigrants who contribute to the economy – and who vote Republican – still would dramatically alter the U.S. and change “the quality and texture” of our lives. At the end of his comments, there was applause.
To be clear, we deplore the views of Nick Fuentes and those like him. We do not yearn for a white “monoculture.” We believe the diversity of the Quad-Cities broadens our experience and deepens our understanding of our common humanity; it celebrates the differences that remind us that this country is knit from a multi-dimensional fabric – but is still one.
The day after the forum, the congressional candidates swiftly distanced themselves from Fuentes. Former U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling and Mariannette Miller-Meeks said they do not approve of his views. (As this newspaper reported, it actually was a Schilling staffer who invited the activist. He said the former congressman did not know about his actions. The staffer is no longer with the campaign.)
Others, including the pastor at the church, were critical of the activist’s comments.
However, the anger that followed the forum was not directed at Fuentes alone. The claim that all Americans are “victims” of people who are in the country illegally also drew outrage.
People who objected to the forum responded with a protest at the church last weekend. It was peaceful. Some in the community, even those sympathetic to their cause, did not like the idea it was held during the church’s Sunday service. We were not comfortable with the idea, either, though the timing was intended to make a point.
It is clear to anyone who pays attention to our country’s political dialogue that immigration is one of the most divisive subjects in American life.
There are clear and honest differences about how this country should enforce its immigration laws; how we secure our borders and deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already are in the country; how we honor our tradition as a welcoming country and extend a compassionate hand to people who, through no fault of their own, are trying to escape desperate circumstances. But we also know that underlying these differences is a racial element that cannot be ignored.
Provocateurs and race-baiters, such as the people who are distributing the National Alliance flyers we have seen across the Quad-Cities, are seeking to turn us against one another.
We should not let it happen. We should be aware also that as we enter the 2020 election season, we are doubly at risk of this kind of divisiveness.
We understand there will be honest arguments about immigration policy, but we should also affirm we are a welcoming community that believes in our common humanity.
We think our federal government could help immeasurably with these differences if it could find a solution to the immigration issue. There was a glimmer of hope in 2013, when a compromise bill in the U.S. Senate promised tough border security and created an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were not violent and who paid their taxes and a fine.
The legislation didn’t make it past the Senate, and since then, the divisions have only become worse. We are hopeful that lawmakers on both sides will come together and find a solution. This may be the most difficult issue for Washington, D.C., to resolve, but we also believe that finding a compromise would yield significant dividends.
In the meantime, we believe Quad-Citians must recognize in each other our common goodness, our common worth, and reject the voices that seek to divide us.
Sioux City Journal. December 12, 2019
USMCA deal is good news for farm states.
In an encouraging sign legislative business continues in Washington, D.C., in spite of the impeachment process, the Trump administration and congressional leaders have reached agreement on a new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal.
If, as expected, all three nations ratify the agreement (the House plans a vote next week; disappointingly, the Senate won’t vote until Congress returns to session in January), the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will provide a modernized replacement for the 25-year-old Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement.
Some grumbling exists within Republican ranks about concessions to Democrats in the agreement, but we believe striking a deal for the greater good of the nation as a whole – in this case, benefits for a spectrum of American economic sectors – should involve give and take by both sides of the aisle.
For agriculture, the agreement will maintain NAFTA’s duty-free access to the important Canadian and Mexican markets (in 2018, Canada and Mexico purchased $40 billion in farm products, more than than anyone else; almost half of Iowa’s exports go to those two countries), expand opportunities for farm exports to Canada and Mexico (the USMCA is expected to increase annual U.S. agriculture exports by $2.2 billion, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission) and eliminate some of the uncertainty surrounding trade in farm states at a time when the Trump administration’s tariff war with China continues.
Iowa leaders praised the agreement:
“Passage of USMCA will be a significant win for farmers, workers and all Americans,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “Renegotiating NAFTA was a central campaign promise made by President Trump. He kept his word and Americans will enjoy the many benefits of this upgraded trade deal as a result.”
“USMCA is a strong, balanced and modern trade agreement that will create opportunities for Iowa families, farmers, manufacturers and small businesses by expanding markets for our world-class exports,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said.
One final note.
While we join in applause for the USMCA deal and urge expedient votes for ratification within Congress, we temper our enthusiasm with concern about the continuing trade fight with China.
Our hope is the Trump administration’s USMCA accomplishment will be followed shortly by an agreement with the Chinese, resulting in removal of tariffs and resumption of free trade so important to Midwest farmers and agriculture states like ours.
Fort Dodge Messenger. December 15
Lights at Kennedy makes season festive
Holiday extravaganza supports an exceptionally worthy cause
As Christmas approaches, the campground at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park is once again being transformed into a holiday wonderland. The 16th annual Lights at Kennedy will help make the season more festive for area residents and visitors. Additionally, the event raises money to support the important Backpack Buddies program.
Backpack Buddies has been a project of Noon Sertoma since 2010. It supplies elementary school-age children from low-income homes with nutrient-rich foods for consumption on weekends.
The numerous Christmas-themed displays that are at the heart of Lights at Kennedy are sponsored by businesses and organizations. Visitors will view them for a small fee of $5 per vehicle. This enjoyable outing has become a holiday tradition for many Fort Dodgers. It is a superb adventure that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Along the way, there’s a good chance participants will encounter Santa and his many helpers. We have it on good authority that Santa himself will be handing out candy canes.
The displays filling the Kennedy campground will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. today through Sunday. It will also be open Dec. 21-23.
Each year there are changes and enhancements to keep the event fresh and exciting.
The Lights at Kennedy project is sponsored by Noon Sertoma and Fort Dodge Young Professionals. This month is filled with seasonal events that make it a joyous time of year. The Messenger strongly urges readers to include Lights at Kennedy on their hectic holiday agendas. The outstanding displays will help fill you holiday cheer. Your visit to Kennedy will also help fund a truly worthy local endeavor – Backpack Buddies.