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Iowa Immigrants: Boon or Burden?

October 11, 2007

Des Moines IA – Marshalltown is well-known in Iowa for its high immigrant population, and the city has been a center of attention due to recent immigration raids at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant. Marshalltown activist Irlanda Helgen, who is both an immigrant and a member of Citizens for Community Improvement, says those raids have given rise to some misconceptions about immigrants, and she'd like to put an end to some myths and half-truths.

"Some of the myths are that immigrants are criminal, or they are taking away work from citizens. How many citizens in this community work in the packing plant, or even want to?"

She says another myth is that immigrants use benefits they aren't entitled to. To help end the distrust and dispel misunderstandings, she encourages Marshalltown citizens to listen to local immigrants and find our more about them.

"Take the time get to know them, to explore their stories and to know why they are here."

Helgen says when political candidates come to Iowa, many of them repeat these myths rather than acknowledge the contributions that immigrants make to their communities.

Dick Layman/John Robinson, Public News Service - IA