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IC council candidates want immigrant-friendly city

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | OCTOBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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All seven candidates running for City Council said Wednesday they would like to make Iowa City more welcoming for undocumented residents.

Though none of the candidates took a stance on a series of "sanctuary" proposals for illegal immigrants, all said they were in favor of increasing hospitality for immigrants, regardless of documentation.

The forum was held just one day after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a record number of deportations were completed during fiscal 2011.

At-large candidate Raj Patel said he believes he has a "particularly keen view" on immigration issues.

"I'm only a generation removed from the immigration issue," he said during the Wednesday forum held by the Consultation of Religious Communities. "I understand all residents should be able to live with some dignity regardless of citizenship."

The nine proposals, submitted to the City Council by the Iowa City Human Rights Commission in September, included increased communication among officials and immigrants, more representation in city government, and increased education on policies.

At-large candidate Jarrett Mitchell said he felt the city government should provide services without creating any problems, one such problem being the language barrier, a problem many other candidates agreed with.

"I think it's important to have multilingual police officers and having multilingual services," Mitchell said.

Several candidates agreed that increased communication and diversity training would be beneficial for the community.

"I think we need to educate, not only city staff, but the community in general need to be educated in immigration and what they're doing, and how they contribute to our society," said at-large candidate Michelle Payne said. "I think we need to advertise how immigrants are a part of our community and how they benefit our community."

Patel agreed, saying the City Council should look into using the university for translation services, hold public forums on immigration issues, and increase diversity training for local police.

District C candidate Jim Throgmorton, however, said he believes cities should question national laws potentially jeopardizing human rights.

"If we think historically, both in the U.S. and other parts of the world, it's really easy to find some really clear examples of national legislation that was adopted legally and had horrific results," he said. "It seems to me that we need to be totally prepared in our disagreement and criticism of national policies that are fundamentally wrong."

Incumbent Mayor Matt Hayek said that while he believes asking for identification for city services is something to be considered, he didn't feel Iowa City's current requirements were overbearing.

"I don't think Iowa City has a problem with over-requesting identification," he said.

District A candidate Steve Soboroff concluded the forum by noting that the meeting was not conducive to people who wanted to be ultimately swayed in their voting decisions.

"We have differing opinions on other subjects, but on this one we're basically unified," he said. "We don't want to see this community turn into a scapegoat community."


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