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Local Leaders Sign "Iowa Compact" for Immigration Reform

December 14, 2011

PERRY, Iowa - Taking a cue from Indiana and Utah, a group of Iowans has launched an Iowa Compact, a statement of views and principles they hope will guide future immigration reform efforts.

Business owners, church leaders and some elected officials are signing it.

In Perry, where about 40 percent of the population is Latino, city leaders are behind the idea. Mayor Jay Pattee thinks there's some middle ground in crafting new immigration policies - but says he isn't hearing about it in the presidential race.

"During the Republican presidential primary season, the rhetoric on immigration has reached a new low. This type of debate is not only extreme and divisive, but it serves as a distraction from a genuine policy debate."

Perry Police Chief Dan Brickman says the lack of federal action on immigration reform has put his officers in an awkward spot at a time when they can't afford to take on additional responsibilities or alienate their residents.

"We deal with people who fear talking to us about crimes they've witnessed or been a victim of, because of the fear of deportation, et cetera. And we do that, of course, with limited resources."

Utah's compact was created after neighboring Arizona passed its strict enforcement-only immigration law. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says that move alarmed enough people in his state to send a message to state and federal lawmakers.

"Fortunately, it worked for us. We turned down the road to an enforcement-only to - once we had the compact out there and people understanding and accepting it - that the majority of Utahans got behind it."

Like the efforts in Utah and Indiana, the Iowa Compact lays out five principles for future immigration policy discussions including keeping families together, promoting business-friendly policies and asking that immigration policies be decided on a federal level - not by individual states.

The Iowa Compact is online at iowacompact.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IA