Tragedy avoided



For those who think that police are racist and shoot before they think: Gilo Akwai, 21, was approached while sitting in a car early Monday by a Storm Lake Police officer. Akwai, an African American, was a suspect in an assault at a bar earlier, and the vehicle allegedly had tried to run over a bar employee. When the officer made contact a gun was seen between Akwai’s legs in the car seat. Turns out it was not loaded and Akwai was taken in without incident.

Still, Akwai is lucky to be alive.

He had a record for displaying a firearm in a threatening manner. Police knew that. They did not know what he might do. When the officer spotted a gun, as has happened in other incidents across the country, his reaction could have been the fatal one. But it wasn’t, thanks to training and clear evidence that the officer did not display bias in how the suspect was approached and handled.

Given all the tensions over race, guns and violence, we can be relieved that someone is not dead — the bartender, the suspects or the officer. The only one who should be wielding a gun in this scenario is the cop. But that is a fantasy. Police are on edge over all the guns, no question. “It’s a dangerous world,” one cop said, even in The City Beautiful. We can be grateful that police approach it with appropriate restraint while in danger for their own lives. At least, that’s what happened Monday morning.

Tragedy invited

It gets harder every day to see how Dreamers will get any relief before the midterm elections, much less the arbitrary March 5 deadline imposed by President Trump to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That’s a shame. It is because Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley failed. He produced a bill that Trump said he would support, for what that’s worth, but which Grassley knew could not clear the House Republicans nor the Senate Democrats. It failed, one among four. It could have been the bill that was a win-win for America. It’s a loss for Grassley and his capacity to govern, it’s a loss for young people with big dreams in Storm Lake, Iowa, and it’s a loss for our community that needs them and the future they promise us.

Grassley, the opponent of $400 Pentagon toilet seats, embraced a $25 billion border wall that would do nothing to solve the problem of undocumented immigration. He proposed to curtail and then end the family reunification system, surely a perversion of conservative and religious principle. The far right in the House would never buy “amnesty” and Democrats could not accept all the other unreasonable Grassley-Trump demands. It was a bill that was designed to fail for political reasons. Grassley does nothing without checking with his boss, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The GOP figures that immigration plays well for them in the November midterm elections. It did the trick for Trump, anyhow. Fire up the base for an off-year when Democrats (young people and minorities) typically do not turn out.

Democrats, likewise, believe it will play their way. Early special elections and polls suggest that momentum is blue, but such signals are most often premature. So here we go again.

Meantime, the immigrants invited here by Iowa companies will be forced to go underground again. Maybe they move to Denison and establish a new identity. Or they just disappear in Storm Lake. Children leave school. What happened to them? We never know. Friends of the police are not there anymore to offer tips. Fearful people already are steering clear of authorities.

Chuck Grassley used to be a pragmatic man. He knows you have to get the work done. He would rather that his grandchildren not have to cut meat for a living, probably. But somebody has to. We have this system that is obviously broken, and a lot of families could be repaired by some compassion. What we get, instead, is politics.

Grassley could restore himself to his youth with an honest and sincere effort to seek justice and not just power. What we have for an immigration system cannot be considered just or efficient or the least bit sensible. But it works in a broken sort of way for the people who exploit it and those who line Grassley’s pockets and pull his strings. It works for the liars, it works for the human traffickers, it works for the corporations who want people to labor in insecurity. Obviously, it works for Chuck Grassley.