State Senator Jason Schultz still stirring up fear and loathing of Syrian refugees

State Senator Jason Schultz continues to lead the charge against Iowa accepting any refugees from war-torn Syria. He gained attention last month for warning on a popular conservative talk radio program that migrants from the Middle East "want to live under Sharia law," and their presence would constitute "an invasion" spreading Muslim "ideology by force." This week, Schultz beat the drum again as a guest on Jan Mickelson's WHO Radio program.  

Not being a regular WHO listener, I learned about Schultz's latest comments from the senator's October 5 Facebook status update:

The effort to convince our statewide and federal officeholders that their Iowa constituents are not in favor of bringing Middle Eastern migrants continues. I am still receiving shouts of support from Iowans who do not want to bring to Iowa the problems happening in Europe and the Mid-East. Today was another opportunity to call out the warning on WHO Radio's Jan Mickelson program. Along with it came another round of support from Western Iowans. The vast majority of Iowans want nothing to do with this.

You can listen to Mickelson's October 5 show here. The segment with Schultz begins around the 1:01 mark and runs about twelve minutes. Schultz warned listeners that he had "a little good news and mostly bad news" regarding his efforts to prevent any refugees from Syria from entering Iowa. Governor Terry Branstad's office and U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are still "issuing statements of concern, which amazes me," Schultz said. He has urged Branstad's staff to have the governor take a stronger position against accepting refugees from the Middle East, but instead, the official stance merely calls on federal government to deal with the migrants transparently.

A few days after Schultz first ranted about this issue on Mickelson's program, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds discussed the controversy at a September 14 press conference, where she filled in for Branstad. Erin Murphy reported,

"Iowa, I think, is known for being welcoming for refugees," Reynolds said. "We would hope that (the federal government) would keep the communication open and transparent and have us be more of a partner. And then I think it's extremely important that we are mindful of Homeland Security and their ability to handle the refugees as they come in while we're protecting Americans." [...]

Reynolds said the state administration has not declared opposition to accepting refugees in Iowa.

"We hope to have a conversation with State Department and the president's office," Reynolds said.

Speaking to Mickelson on October 5, Schultz said Ernst and Grassley have issued "aggressive statements of concern about the security or the vetting of these migrants, but they will not say that they are against bringing these folks in" to Iowa. "Why wouldn't you be a no?" until any concerns about terrorism have been alleviated, Schultz wondered.

As for the "good news," Schultz relayed that Representative Steve King (IA-04) has publicly opposed bringing anyone in from Syria.

During the ensuing dialogue, Mickelson quoted derisively from Branstad's comments last week. Lee Rood reported for the Des Moines Register on September 30,

Gov. Terry Branstad says he believes welcoming displaced the Syrians is a good thing, provided the federal government conducts thorough screenings and keeps state officials informed of their numbers and when they are coming.

"I think Iowans are very open and accepting to immigrants in situations like this," Branstad said. [...]

During a conference call with the U.S. State Department and other federal refugee authorities that same afternoon [September 28], Iowa leaders were told Obama must sign by midnight Wednesday a presidential determination enabling the U.S. to take in roughly 10,000 Syrian migrants in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. [...]

Branstad said only a very small number of Syrians "already in the pipeline" could be expected to arrive in Iowa by next October - perhaps less than 100. State department officials have estimated it will take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to screen those applying for entry into the county.

The governor said the president's current budget also does not include additional money for the 10,000 additional refugees, "so they are going to work with Congress on that."

But, he said, he believes Iowa has the jobs in meatpacking, food processing and other areas to sustain more refugees, and Iowans typically embrace those who are forced from their homelands.

Mickelson added sarcastically that he's sure Muslim immigrants from the Middle East would line up to work in our pork processing plants. Schultz added in the same tone that he's sure "displaced workers" from a recent plant closure in Denison (Crawford County) "would love to know that there's a suggestion to bring in more people" to compete for scarce jobs.

For a reality check, read Douglas Burns in the September 23 edition of the Des Moines weekly Cityview:

Tyson Fresh Meats' decision to permanently cease beef-packing operations at its Denison plant in August jettisoned some 400 workers, many of them Latino immigrants with varying degrees of language proficiency and connections to Iowa.

Within hours, Evan Blakley, executive director of the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County, started fielding phone calls.

"Can we get these workers?" said recruiters from around Iowa.

"We'll take them all!" said out-of-state human resource directors.

Days later in Denison, at least 213 job-seekers from the former Tyson plant made their way through a table-packed event center alive with chatter on wages and benefits and opportunity, said Ed Wallace, deputy director of Iowa Workforce Development. Businesses from across the Midwest attended this job fair at the National Guard Armory on the east side of Denison. [...]

The largest, single issue in rural Iowa today is lack of available labor. Nothing approaches it.

Also during Monday's interview with Mickelson (around the 1:08 mark), Schultz alleged that law enforcement in western Iowa are at their "wit's end" trying to deal with refugees already living here. One officer allegedly told him that during any given weekend, about nine of the twelve arrests he makes will be from within the refugee community.

The "crime problem" is yet another reason to resist bringing any more Muslim refugees to Iowa: "This isn't mean-spirited, this isn't hateful. This is real life, and this is common sense," Schultz asserted.

Before signing off, he promised Mickelson he would "not let this issue drop" and urged Iowans to contact the offices of Branstad, Grassley, and Ernst. He also asked people to "encourage" politicians like King, who are "on the right side." Schultz has appreciated supportive comments from strangers who saw his recent newspaper column or heard his remarks on Mickelson's show last month.

It's incredible that a sitting state senator views the prospect of admitting fewer than 100 refugees from Syria as a huge threat to Iowa. But then, Schultz has never been the most discerning public official.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I enclose the opinion column Schultz submitted to Iowa newspapers on September 15.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand how people can see things so differently. The idea that we would intentionally bring Syrian Muslim men of military age into the United States, or worse, Iowa, is unthinkable to me. This last week has been an exercise in frustration.

It began last Tuesday when I found a link to a Radio Iowa news article on Senator Charles Grassley stating that Iowans would be welcoming and open to accepting Syrian nationals. I was stunned. Never did I expect this from our senior Senator. From the time I started paying attention to the world, Syria was friendly with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and has been a state sponsor of terrorism, with the people of Syria celebrating our losses and tragedies publicly.

Fortunately Senator Grassley pulled back a bit the next day, releasing a statement expressing concern about the security procedures and the numbers allowed in as the migrants are processed and distributed. I am not worried about procedures or numbers. There should be no negotiation over how many. I want NO refugees brought into Iowa or the United States. From the many people I've asked around my travels in the district, almost none of you want them here either.

It has become clear the Senator's office is not going to issue a statement opposing the placement of the Syrians in Iowa. Reaching out for assistance, I contacted Governor Branstad' s office and let his staff know my concerns. I asked for the Governor to issue a statement refusing to accept any refugees, asylum seekers, or migrants from this mass relocation of people. After waiting through the weekend, I was crushed to hear Lt. Gov. Reynolds use almost the same talking points as Senator Grassley in Tuesday's news.

The statement from the Lt. Governor declares it is too early to have a position, that the federal government must be more open in communicating with the states than they have been in the past. The trouble is this plan is not just being arranged, it is already under way. My understanding is Congress has already appropriated billions of dollars to move and sustain these people. Non-Governmental Organizations are in place, with three in Iowa, to host people brought into our country with our dollars. The United Nations wants the U.S. to take in 65,000. But it won't end there. Once a refugee arrives there is a process to bring their family to them.

My concerns for the safety of our state and country are summed up in three points:

1. These people do not want to assimilate.

2. They practice a religion that orders them to dominate.

3. They live under Sharia law that they will not subordinate to ours.

Reports of European experiences with these and neighboring people are not encouraging. European governments are building walls and halting train service from areas that have failed to control refugee movement. Numbers of migrants are so large in these countries assimilation is not happening. Communities are developing inside cities that won't interact with westerners. Order breaks down as large numbers of newcomers insist on living under Sharia law, and refuse the law of their hosts.

The question must be asked - where are the other middle-eastern countries in this crisis? I've found many sources that claim the richest Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have contributed money, but haven't accepted refugees. Saudi Arabia has, however, offered to pay for the construction of two hundred mosques in Germany - while refusing to allow a single church in their Kingdom. The expansion of Islam marches on, which I fear the real reason for this migration.

This also goes for Russia and China. I expect our United States to be a better leader than any of these countries, but from what are they protecting themselves that our leaders are not? As I said before, I have received almost unanimous resistance to the idea of bringing Syrian refugees or migrants to the state or the nation. I have taken a position, and I ask other leaders in Iowa to do the same. No talking points about how welcoming Iowans are, just answer yes or no. Do you support bringing Syrians into Iowa?

This would not be so concerning if our state and national leaders - all of us - had a united front defending the interests of the United States and Iowa. So many seem to be more worried about being a "citizen of the world" rather than an American. Hardly any of us feel that federal or state government is worried about us at the local level. Please take this column as evidence that I care about the future of the country and state, and I am willing to pay the price to protect them. As has been said in the past, "this is a time for choosing."

  • If you pay them, they will come.

    I take issue with the claim that no aspect of rural Iowa is more salient than lack of labor.  The real culprit is low pay.

    Chicken house or hog house workers start at $11/hour.  Manufacturing jobs can be filled at $11.50. Fast food outlets still pay close to minimum wage in small cities.

    These dollar up to an annual wage of $22,000 if the jobs are really full time work.  Some jobs swing between overtime shifts one week to only thirty hours the next week.

    No wonder companies would be happy to have Tyson's laid off workers.  It's better to beg for fresh bodies than to have to pay enough to keep local high school graduates from moving to Minnesota.  

    Declining population is the real issue in rural Iowa.  Poor paying jobs is one of the reasons.  Just compare us to North Dakota during its oil boom.  If you pay them, they will come.

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