Great citizens



It was the picture of community: Asian women beautifully dressed, young and old, sitting semi-circle on the floor of the Storm Lake Buddhist Temple sharing sticky rice with condiments from common bowls on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The temple is growing. Alms are offered as dollar bills are attached to trees. They work hard and are building the temple complex. Children run around it. The monks help design it. This is a permanent, brilliant feature of The City Beautiful with people who are here to stay for generations.

Most are refugees from Thai camps, where they sought protection from the Southeast Asian wars. Our wars.

Thanks to Gov. Bob Ray, recently laid to rest, the Lao refugees found a new home in Iowa through a special program that gave these friends, our freedom fighters, a new life in places like Storm Lake. It wasn’t universally popular then, including in Storm Lake. But it was accepted. That could not happen today in Iowa.

The Trump Administration has shut the doors to refugees. Those who show up at El Paso seeking asylum are detained, their families separated. That is well documented. The administration and Rep. Steve King want to end the practice of so-called “chain migration,” whereby Lao families could be reunited from the chaos of war in Storm Lake — and which was employed to secure the status of Melania Trump’s parents. Refugees from ethnic cleansing in Myanmar are blocked from the United States, the crucible of freedom. And, the administration is asking for, and likely will get, another 300 ICE agents to ramp up the denaturalization of citizens like those who attend services at the Buddhist Temple.

Denaturalization once was reserved only for hunting down Nazi war criminals and mob bosses. Now it is being used to revoke the citizenship of thousands of Latinos who might have submitted bad paperwork. It is merely an excuse to ship people out.

Why would we want to deport someone out offering alms to the monk? Or devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe? People who work six days a week cutting meat so their savings can be shared with the church. But that is what the administration is doing. Naturalized citizens are being investigated wholesale to see if there is some way they can be revoked and deported. It is madness. Nobody is safe from them.

New residents, and yes naturalized citizens, are trying to build new lives in Storm Lake. They are giving this community what they have. They come here to work, to worship and to live in relative freedom. They have waited 10 years to get their citizenship, only to live in fear that it could be revoked when the goons show up at the door.

If you’re Muslim you are on the red list. Or if you are Latino. What then prevents us from targeting Asians, or Buddhists, or the Sudanese (the refugees from which now are banned from entry, if they are from Muslim-controlled territory)? It is insidious and frightening.

The photo shows what we are creating in Storm Lake. What is there to fear about it?

A September look at November

The prognosticators are weighing in on the polls post-Labor Day, at the state and national level. It boils down to: The Democrats have to screw it up to not retake the US House but will need a blue tsunami to win the Senate. In Iowa, the governor’s race is a toss-up, the Senate looks beyond reach of the Democrats, and they have high hopes of picking up 10 seats to control the House.

US Rep. Rod Blum, R-Dubuque, is in deep trouble with bad poll numbers and a House ethics investigation looming over him. His opponent, Abby Finkenaur, is raising a ton of money and Washington buzz. The other congressional races favor incumbents, but most observers rate the Third as a toss-up between Rep. David Young, a Republican and Buena Vista graduate, and Democrat Cindy Axne. The irrepressible JD Scholten, a Sioux City Democrat, is making friends wherever he goes in his quixotic bid against Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron. The Fourth District ranking has shifted from “strong” Republican to “likely.” Scholten could be the toughest opponent King has faced. He has raised more funds than King, for starters, and appears to be working the stump a lot harder.

Iowans tend to favor incumbency and divided government. Incumbency could save Young. A preference for divided government could put Democrat Fred Hubbell over the top in his effort to unseat the appointed Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. The GOP is likely to pay a price for its overreach in so many areas, from Medicaid to labor law, and Democratic energy certainly is focused on regaining Terrace Hill. There is no doubt that Democratic turnout will be higher than average for mid-term elections in Iowa, and that Republican voters are not as motivated amid tanking commodity prices wrought by picking trade wars with our best customers. Their complete grip on power in the statehouse probably comes to an end this November, from the way it looks today.