Opinion | Gov. Reynolds gatekeeps Iowa amid immigration surge

In an interview with WHO Radio, Gov. Reynolds treats immigration surge as a political issue rather than humanitarian crisis.


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Gov. Kim Reynolds prepares for the State of the State Address within the house chambers of the Iowa State Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Des Moines. Tuesday marks the second day of the 2021 Iowa legislative session, in which Gov. Reynolds will give her address in the evening. (Ryan Adams/The Daily Iowan)

Sophia Meador, Opinions Contributor

Nearly 172,000 migrants were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the highest number recorded since March 2001. This record number of migrants seeking asylum into the U.S. has overwhelmed housing facilities left by the previous administration.

However, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds turned this humanitarian crisis into a political issue, claiming the migration surge is “the president’s problem.”

The increase in migrants and asylum-seekers is the result of several complicated issues. Since the 1980s, thousands of Central Americans have fled to the U.S.-Mexico border because of poverty and civil unrest in their native region.

The shift in power from the Trump administration to the Biden administration has also factored into the migration surge. As promised in his campaign, President Joe Biden dropped several of the Trump-era immigration policies including the Remain in Mexico policy, which forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico for U.S. immigration court.

While the current surge of migrants at the border is a record high, such fluctuations of migrants is nothing new.

When speaking to WHO Radio on April 8, Reynolds claimed, “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.”

This claim is a false and obvious political punch at the president.

Biden’s immigration officials have thousands of migrants in custody. While Biden plans to increase the cap of refugees in the coming month, the border will not be open to all.

Though Reynolds attempts to push a political narrative of the issue at stake, the surge at the border is the result of a lack of action by previous administrations. This is no longer a political issue, but a humanitarian crisis.

The viral video of a 10-year-old Nicaraguan boy abandoned at the border illustrates the disturbing reality of thousands. This is not a political issue, but a life-or-death situation for many migrants facing exploitation or execution at home.

Reynolds’ refusal to open migrant facilities in Iowa shows a lack of leadership and character. The lack of bipartisanship on what should be a non-political issue illustrates a hostile attitude the governor has on the new administration. This current statute on immigration shows stark differences on how the governor is willing to work with Democrats and Republicans.

In 2019, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order granting states the right to refuse to take refugees. In contrast to her stance now, Reynolds was one of more than 30 governors who welcomed them.

Reynolds stated refugees should not be confused with asylum seekers crossing the southern border at Mexico who don’t go through a strict vetting process.

Iowa House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, opposed the governor’s response, according to a Des Moines Register article.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we’re not willing to help and to show that Iowa is a generous and welcoming state,” Prichard said, according to the Register. “Like so many things it wants to be played as a political football and … play the blame game, but I’m disappointed that we as Iowans aren’t standing up to help.”

As the aforementioned video of the young boy exemplifies, migrants at the border are fleeing horrific realities, where fleeing to a foreign country is safer. Reynolds needs to put politics aside and stop gatekeeping Iowa from those seeking refuge.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.