DES MOINES — A group of Iowa civic, religious and law enforcement leaders announced their support of stronger federal immigration policy with the release of a document Tuesday called the Iowa Compact.
In a conference call announcing the initiative, Des Moines immigration attorney Lori Chesser also criticized the “rhetoric” of the Republican candidates seeking the nomination for president as damaging to the overall objective of finding a solution.
The group — which includes the mayor and police chief of Perry and Bishop Michael Burk of the Southeast Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — also encourages others to read, and sign onto, the compact.
The compact is divided into five topic areas: federal solutions, smart enforcement, keep families together, meet economic needs and a culturally rich, welcoming state.
“At this point, we are saying we are in support of a federal policy that adheres to these principles,” Chesser said. She also serves as a chairwoman of the Iowa Immigration Education Coalition, a group that conducts research and provides briefs on immigration issues. “A lot of the detailed discussion still has to take place … we want to corral that debate.”
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich came under fire earlier this month when he said immigrants who have been in the United States for a long time should be eligible for some type of legal status, short of citizenship.
Critics said the policy was “appeasement.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has taken some hits from conservatives for supporting the Texas Dream Act, which provides in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants at state universities as long as certain other requirements are met.
Martha Willits, president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership economic development group and one of the compact signers, said immigration policy needs to be set with a global perspective in mind, not one where a person’s status changes by crossing a state line.
“State-level fixes don’t address these concerns,” Willits said.
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