116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It sounded like Cruella de Vil without the Dalmatians.
"We don't have the facilities. We are not set up to do that," Gov. Kim Reynolds said on WHO radio last week when asked if the state would shelter any of the thousands of migrant children stuck at the border in overcrowded facilities.
"This is not our problem. This is the president's problem. He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it,” Reynolds snapped.
Again, these are children. Tens of thousands of them are showing up at the border unaccompanied, seeking asylum from homelands scarred by violence and economic ruin. It’s true, the border is the Biden Administration’s responsibility. And so far the surge has been badly mishandled by an administration that should have been far better prepared.
But it’s not over, and asking states to help is one step toward handling a humanitarian crisis.
Reynolds would rather be in the taunting Republican chorus heckling from the sidelines. You simply can’t let the well-being of some kids get in the way of scoring political points. And after all, as former Reynolds campaign co-chair Steve King would point out, these are somebody else’s babies, not our own.
Her no-facilities excuse is a thin cover for Reynolds’ political calculus. Clearly, we have the ability to help and many Iowans would pitch in. Our leadership simply doesn’t want to.
For Iowans of a certain age, Reynolds’ jarring callousness swiftly brought to mind former Republican Gov. Bob Ray, who welcomed refugees and immigrants from war-torn Southeast Asia in the 1970s. His decision wasn’t universally popular, but Ray argued it was the right thing to do. It was one of the state’s proudest moments.
But I also thought about Gov. William Harding, who issued the infamous “Babel Proclamation” during World War I that prohibited the speaking of German and other foreign languages in Iowa. It spurred a wave of anti-immigrant fear, anger and violence. It was a dark moment in the state’s history.
Reynolds and Iowa’s Trump GOP are political descendants of Harding, not Ray.
Working overtime to scare us and divide us is the go-to GOP playbook in the Trump era. In this case, asylum seekers are the frightening “other” who must be turned away before they form tattooed gangs, put taco trucks on every corner or use their cantaloupe calves to haul in drugs.
Immigrants, however, are still needed in our meatpacking plants, so long as they keep the pork moving and keep the governor’s donors on track for fat profits.
This week it’s “illegals.” Next week it might be transgender kids playing basketball, Black Lives Matter protesters seeking justice, urban voters casting absentee ballots in swing states, the 1619 Project, meatless Mondays or some other flavor of “American carnage.”
These are what Reynolds and Republicans insist are “our problem.” Not a coronavirus pandemic. Not the struggles of low-wage workers. Not racism plaguing our criminal justice system. Not dirty water or a climate crisis.
And definitely not immigrant kids stuck at the border. The governor has ordered the huddled masses to go huddle someplace else.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org