Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa "Radio Row" on Wrong Wavelength

Last week's "Iowa 2007 Radio Row," a broadcast marathon in Des Moines focused on immigration, marked a misleading attempt to bring the immigration debate to tonight's Iowa caucuses, according to the Des Moines Register. "It will be worse if Iowans fall for this ruse and give their support on Thursday night to presidential candidates who play to people's fears," the editorial stated.

The Real Story of Iowa's Immigrants

The portrayal of immigrants by these radio hosts are completely inaccurate, according to Sandra Sanchez, program director of AFSC's Immigrant Voice Program based in Des Moines, Iowa. Since 1995 the program has worked towards the civic integration of Iowa's immigrant community.

"I have worked for years assisting immigrants' integration as full participants of their communities. Volunteers and staff have spent countless hours filling out immigration and citizenship applications. Our clients hardly find English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that fit their needs as parents and working adults," Sanchez said.

Demographics Change Iowa Landscape

As baby-boomers retire and Iowan college graduates move elsewhere, Iowa's workforce will experience important changes, including the need for thousands of new workers by 2012, based on estimates of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sanchez expressed concerns about the impact these demographic shifts may have on her 15-years of direct community work with immigrants and other efforts to attract newcomers to fill employers' needs for workers.

"For the country's sake, Congress and President Bush should resolve in the new year to forge an agreement on immigration reform... [O]therwise, until the election of a new president and Congress or beyond, the issue will continue to stir distrust of government and harden the nation's heart," the Des Moines Register wrote.

Shifting Attitudes toward Immigrants

Community organizers and social activists working in the areas of integration and cultural diversity have expressed their growing frustration with a troubling media trend, which increasingly depicts undocumented workers and immigrants in a negative and harmful manner. According to Sonia Tuma, AFSC Central Region Director, there is a measurable shift in attitudes among Iowans.

"My staff has reported a shift from an openly welcoming spirit to a distrustful and even rude attitude among some Iowans towards immigrants and towards Latinos in general. This disturbing change is not yet as pervasive, and AFSC is committed to stop it in its tracks," said Tuma.

Calls for Responsible Reporting & Dialogue

The nation's media has the professional and ethical responsibility to cover news events and policy issues while adhering to professional industry standards grounded in factual and objective reporting. "It is irresponsible to spread inaccurate information; it perpetuates ignorance and in this particular case, it polarizes our communities," said Alex Orozco, director of the Network Against Human Trafficking, in Des Moines.

"AFSC encourages Iowa's leaders and residents to undertake an inclusive and genuine dialogue on immigration and lead the nation in showing that divisiveness and hate will not be tolerated; it benefits no one, and it is not welcomed here," concluded Sanchez.