• Iowa rally offers preview of immigration amnesty debate

    Democrats organized in the event in the home district of Republican Rep. Steve King, who ignited a war of words over civility in the immigration debate.

    Wayne Nosbisch, of Greenfield, Iowa, left, talks with Allison Ordman of Iowa City outside a forum on immigration, Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, in Ames, Iowa.(Photo: Rodney White, The Des Moines Register)

    DES MOINES, Iowa -- The great national divide over immigration made a road stop in Iowa on Friday, offering a close-up view of just how dug-in opponents are.

    Advocates of comprehensive reform did their best to say that a bill the U.S. Senate passed is tough on illegal immigration.

    "This bill is not a powder-puff, easy bill for those who want to become citizens," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during a rally that Democrats organized in the home district of Republican Rep. Steve King, who ignited a war of words over civility in the immigration debate.

    10:28 p.m. EDT August 2, 2013
    Jennifer Jacobs
    The Des Moines Register

    Opponents weren't buying.

    Republicans Larry and Bianca DeRocher drove more than two hours from their home in Onawa to be in Ames for a counter-rally, holding up signs in support of King. They think King's comments last month about immigrant drug mules with cantaloupe-sized calves were "right on the money."

    "He just says what needs to be said," Larry DeRocher said. "He stands up to the idiots in D.C. ... I love the guy."

    The divided viewpoints on display were likely a preview of meetings across the country as members of Congress take a pulse on the issue during their annual August recess. But at this event, the 260 reform advocates far outnumbered the 20 opponents.

    Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Durbin said they organized the rally in response to a comment King made in an interview that broadly painted immigrants in the country illegally as marijuana smugglers.

    "We Iowans are a welcoming people," Harkin said to applause from the audience seated in a school auditorium. "We are a compassionate and caring people. We do not believe in characterizing people with hateful, spiteful, degrading language. ... We believe that people who come here to build a better life are not criminals."

    Durbin, the author of the DREAM Act and a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that crafted the immigration bill that passed the Senate in late June, tried to correct the perception that immigrants would get an easy ride under that legislation.

    "They come forward and register with the government — who they are, where they live, where they work — and they then go through a criminal background check," Durbin said. "If they have any serious crimes in their background, they're gone. No ifs, ands or buts."

    After paying a fine, they're "on the books, and they're paying taxes," he said.

    For many immigrants, "there will be no government benefits coming their way for 10 years despite the fact they're paying taxes," Durbin said. "For those who have been working here using some other identification number, they get no credit. ... If you worked 20 years in America, paid into Social Security on somebody else's number, and you can prove it, it's not worth anything."

    Young immigrants won't get federal college aid money, he said. "They can have work study loans that they have to pay back, but that's it," he said.

    "So it's a very limited, tough 10 years. For people who say it's amnesty — for goodness' sakes. These folks are paying a heavy price for having come here illegally or overstaying a visa."

    And the number of border agents would double. "For those who argue this is weak on border enforcement, trust me — I think it goes too far," Durbin said.
    One of the counter-ralliers, Larry Clayton of Ankeny, listened to the other side, but said Durbin's description of the legislation doesn't change his mind. He doesn't think 40,000 border patrol agents would be enough.

    "Unless we seal the border, it won't work. ... We ought to have military down on the Mexican border," Clayton said. "That would totally eliminate illegal immigration."

    Eduardo Rodrigues, left, speaks at a forum in Ames, Iowa, on Friday, Aug. 2, 2013.(Photo: Rodney White, The Des Moines Register)

    Another speaker, Eduardo Rodriguez, 24, whose family entered the country illegally from Mexico when he was 1 year old,said he went to school from first grade through college in Orange City. At his elementary school, he and his cousins were the only Latinos. Although he wasn't born here, he's an Iowan, he said.

    "I love the cornfields and even sometimes the smell," he said. "That is home. That is where I feel comfortable."

    He said he's excited about the immigration reform bill the Senate passed.

    As for King, Rodriguez said: "I doubt he knows any DREAMers or undocumented immigrants and their stories, the way he talks about them."

    Harkin said he believes the votes are there in the Republican-led House to pass immigration reform legislation. "If they bring up the bill the votes are there," he said.

    Durbin said he worked on the bill for seven months. "Let's get it done," he said.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Iowa rally offers preview of immigration debate started by Newmexican View original post