With Economy More Reliant on Immigrants, Iowa Support for Immigration Reform Grows
July 10, 2015
Updated Jan. 29, 2016
Immigrants are an integral part of Iowa’s economy and community. As the demographics of Iowa change, faith, business and law enforcement officials are speaking out for reform in an effort to inspire a more welcoming and safe society for immigrants.
“The immigration system needs urgent reform. The mission of community policing has become ever more difficult. The fear of deportation at any turn prevents crime victims from engaging law enforcement for help and undermines local law enforcement efforts to build trust in our communities. Comprehensive immigration reform will enhance public safety and support community outreach efforts by local law enforcement, local government and their community partners.”
— Police Chief Mike Tupper of Marshalltown, Iowa.
An Economy Based on Changing Demographics
Iowa’s economy is increasingly reliant on immigrants and their families. As recently as 2001, the fastest-growing segment of the state’s population was residents older than 100, and many young people were moving away from the state, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE). But immigrants have helped counteract that demographic change. From 2000 to 2013, the foreign-born population in Iowa grew by 47 percent, far outpacing the national average.
Immigrants have been key to Iowa businesses countering labor shortages these demographic changes have caused. According to U.S. Census figures, 70.8 percent of the foreign-born population participates in the labor force, while 27.3 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.
Shortages in STEM employment still loom, the PNAE notes. There are more STEM job openings than unemployed STEM workers. From 2009 to 2011, 3.4 STEM job openings were posted online in Iowa for each unemployed STEM worker in the state. And, looking forward, Iowa will need to fill 61,500 new STEM jobs by 2020.
Immigrants in Iowa can help fill that gap. In 2009, more than 42 percent of students earning STEM master’s or Ph.D. degrees from Iowa’s research universities were foreign-born. From 2006 to 2010, 70 percent of engineering Ph.D. degrees awarded at Iowa universities went to immigrants.
GOP Voters Support Immigration Reform
Recent polling has found that a majority of Iowans support immigration reform. Public Religion Research Institute polling in February found that 58 percent of Iowa residents support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while only 22 percent support an identify-and-deport approach.
Similar polls conducted last year found that a majority of Iowa voters support legislative action on immigration.
Specifically, Iowa evangelicals strongly support immigration reform, holding multiple events and writing powerful opinion pieces:
- DES MOINES REGISTER (Shaull Op-Ed): Evangelicals support immigration reform
The Rev. John Shaull of Winterset serves as the director of missions for the Metro Baptist Association of Iowa.
- SIOUX CITY JOURNAL (Opgenorth Op-Ed): Reforms should reflect biblical mandate to welcome immigrants
The Rev. Jon Opgenorth serves as senior pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa.
- QUAD CITY TIMES: (Rowland & Suarez Op-Ed): Guest View: A conversation on valuing immigrants
Pastor Doug Rowland is pastor of Outreach Ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport. Rev. Tony Suarez is executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Iowa Faith, Law Enforcement and Business Media Availability
Paul Fitzgerald, Story County Sheriff
Bill McCarthy, Polk County Sheriff
Mike Tupper, Marshalltown Police Chief
Rev. Jon Opgenorth, Senior Pastor, Trinity Reformed Church, Orange City
John Shaull, Director of Missions, Metro Baptist Association, Winterset
Greg Aguilar, Director, Talent Attraction & Retention, Quad Cities Chamber
Mark Prosser, Public Safety Director, Storm Lake, Iowa
Doug Rowland, Pastor of Outreach Ministries, Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport
Please contact Cathleen Farrell to arrange interviews.