Loebsack, Archer similar on immigration


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In Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, both Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack and Republican challenger John Archer have weighed in on immigration, touting their tough stances on illegal immigration in a state with a unique relationship with the subject.

While their positions differ slightly, both men support policies of attrition that would serve neither to improve the lives of undocumented immigrants nor reduce the prevalence of illegal immigration in the United States.

Immigration — particularly illegal immigration — is typically considered a problem in border states and big cities, but federal immigration policies have substantial implications for Iowa. The agriculture industry, Iowa’s second largest, is one of the nation’s leading employers of undocumented workers. In 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the largest workplace raid in American history at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa; 389 undocumented workers were arrested.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, Iowa’s undocumented immigrant population is on the rise. In 2007, 55,000 of the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants lived in Iowa. By 2010, Iowa’s total had risen to 75,000.

At a debate on Oct. 12, Archer and Loebsack laid out their immigration plans. There were some disagreements on the subject: Loebsack supports President Obama’s executive order that offers work visas to young undocumented immigrants; Archer opposes Obama’s immigration plans and has even offered opposition to Mitt Romney’s plan to give young undocumented immigrants who serve in the military a path to citizenship.  

For the most part, however, their immigration beliefs are very similar. Both men oppose mass deportation, support stronger federal enforcement of border security, and, most importantly, agree that a crackdown on undocumented workers is of the utmost importance.

Both candidates support the continued use of the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify database that allows employers to check the immigration status of their prospective employees to weed out undocumented immigrants in the work force.

Such efforts to prohibit the employment of undocumented immigrants are similar to the policies of “self-deportation” first put forward by Romney in January and then codified in the Republican Party platform this summer. Eliminating economic opportunity and basic services for undocumented immigrants, this line of reasoning goes, will compel those immigrants to re-evaluate their economic standing and voluntarily return home.

Such economic attrition is not an effective or humane way of dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. While it is true that the rate of immigration slowed as a result of the recession — because the economic incentives of coming to America were reduced — the rate of immigrants leaving the United States remained consistently low over the same period. In other words, as economic conditions got bleaker for undocumented immigrants in the United States from 2006 to 2009, they opted to tough it out here instead of returning to their country of origin.

Decisions about “self-deportation” are about more than money. Undocumented immigrants who have built lives and families in the United States are unlikely to pack up and leave home when times get tough. Making it even more difficult for undocumented immigrants to get jobs and basic government services would not solve our immigration problems, but it would make many hard lives immeasurably harder.

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