Talking about immigration

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Twenty-three years ago, in the months just before 9/11, the National Issues Forums asked me to work on a “discussion guide” on the topic of immigration. The assignment required me to ask people in Iowa how they felt about immigration and what, if anything, should be done.

My small team and I found the issue was “hot” among Iowans, especially among working-class people—particularly former packing house workers who had lost their jobs and saw their wages cut by a sleight-of-hand when plants changed ownership and de-unionized the workforce. The void, some said, was filled by migrants.

We found some business people welcomed new arrivals as needed for jobs that were unfilled by the local, native population. Descendants of Iowans who originally came to the U.S. to receive a homestead were open to immigration, especially from European countries—much less so of peoples from Latin American or Asian countries. The guide was meant to offer a policy alternative for ordinary Americans to consider in weighing the costs and consequences of the nation’s immigration policies.

Of course, 9/11 altered the course of the world forever and changed the nationwide discussion of immigration and immigrants along with it.

That summer of 2001, my youngest grandson was born, and we wanted to visit him and family in Merida, Yucatán, Mexico where they were living. On 9/10 we returned home—Merida to Houston to Des Moines International Airport. That was the day before 9/11. Almost everyone who was alive then can remember where they were the next morning.

George W. Bush saw Mexico for its potential

In an article for CNN written ten years after 9/11, CNN correspondent Gerry Hadden reflected on the days and weeks surrounding that day. Hadden described in detail the immigrant-related activity in Congress in the days and weeks before 9/11. 

At the time of the attacks, Hadden was based out of Mexico City for National Public Radio. He’d arrived in spring 2000 amidst (Hadden’s words) “much hullabaloo about an historic shift in U.S.-Latin American relations, especially regarding Mexico. I believed it all. Most people did. Things looked so promising.”

As Hadden tells it, Texas Governor and U.S. presidential candidate George W. Bush was one of the first people in U.S. to congratulate conservative businessman Vicente Fox who was elected Mexico’s president in July 2000. Bush would become our president months later, of course. 

With both men (Fox and Bush) in their respective offices, the two countries set up a top-shelf bilateral commission to tackle the big, nagging issues: curbing illegal immigration via a guest worker program for Mexicans to work in the U.S. legally, improving trade ties, and cooperating more fully in the fight against drug traffickers. Heading the U.S. delegation was the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Across the table, Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. They met twice, in April and June 2001, and had the essence of an agreement.

Bush broke with one of our presidential traditions by inviting Fox to be his first head-of-state guest. On the White House lawn on September 6, 2001, Bush reportedly called the 21st century the “Century of the Americas.” He said the U.S. had no more important friend than Mexico.

That day, the Mexican president spoke before a joint session of the U.S. Congress about a new era in relations. (U.S. Senators Joe Biden, Chuck Grassley, and Tom Harkin were in the Chamber.) Fox received a standing ovation. His full speech is still available on C-SPAN. In part:

Honorable members of the Congress of the United States of America, it is a distinct honor for me (said Fox) to be here in the oldest legislative assembly on the American continent.

The Congress’ deliberations have had such a strong influence not only on the history of this country, but of the entire world.

This is an historic moment between our two nations in which the governments of Mexico and the United States have decided to begin a new era of friendship and cooperation to benefit both our peoples.

Mexico and the United States wish to bring together our principles and interests as well as our traditions and hopes. The meeting of our two countries at the dawning of this new century may represent the beginning of the most promising chapters in our common history.

My presence in this chamber bears witness to that will to bring our countries closer together. It is our very firm wish, as Mexicans and Americans, to establish a new relationship, a more mature, full and equitable relationship based on mutual trust. (APPLAUSE)

Honorable members of the United States Congress, I stand before you today with a simple message: Trust needs to be the key element of our new relationship.


Less than a week later (after 9/11), in Hadden’s telling, the U.S. left Mexico, and the rest of Latin America, standing at the altar. National Security Adviser Rice and her team never came back to the negotiating table. The notion of a guest-worker program was shelved. Minister Castañeda eventually quit the Mexican government in frustration. He returned to academia, where (as Hadden writes) “dreaming is not only possible but encouraged.”

Fox was left without the ace in his cabinet—and having to explain to 100 million constituents what exactly George W. had meant by “Century of the Americas.”

Mexico was left to stew in a pressure cooker of rising unemployment and institutional corruption, writes Harden. In Central America, U.S.-led aid and development projects slowed to a snail’s pace, as cocaine cartels moved in, relatively undetected. And in Haiti, a democratically elected president was left to fend for himself against a host of enemies more powerful than he. 

Mexico, says Hadden, is where we lost our biggest opportunity because that’s where the biggest challenges lie. Bush should have engaged closely with Fox from day one and stayed engaged. Fox had a colossal challenge before him: steering his country through its first democratic transition in its 500-year history. 

This didn’t happen. And the political, economic, and social inequalities that drive Mexicans north of the border have not been meaningfully addressed by either nation or certainly not by the two working in tandem.

This snippet of history, and a thousand others like it, should be on our minds as our nation struggles to understand and address the rush of migrant arrivals at the Texas border and our obligation to accommodate them.

Donald J. Trump

Trump launched his first presidential campaign on June 16, 2015, by telling his audience, “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically:

When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically.

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. […]

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. […]

It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop, and it’s got to stop fast. 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump made immigration and hostility toward migrants a centerpiece of his election campaign. He created a cheap myth about illegal immigration—a myth designed to create distrust and xenophobic fear, thus providing easy scapegoats for the many Americans unhappy with their current situation. Having created the boogeyman of dangerous, out-of-control illegal immigration, a president has to solve it.

Once elected, Trump implemented three policies meant to curb the inflow of migrants. His “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico pending adjudication of their asylum request. Child separation, which (as implied) actually separated children from their parents. And “Title 42,” which ostensibly rejected migrants suspected of bringing COVID-19 into the U.S. According to ACLU, each of these policies ran counter to America’s refugee laws.


Anyone can find stories and articles about the reasons migrants are coming to the U.S. and the difficulty of their trip and the hazards of life when they arrive. Yet, most people are unaware of the tragic circumstance of life can be for many “south of the border.” 

For example, from 1960 to 1996, Guatemalans lived through a grisly civil war that killed 200,000 amid documented acts of genocide. Soldiers, equipped and trained with U.S. taxpayer dollars, would shoot up entire Maya villages, justifying the killings on the off chance they might be harboring rebels, those militants opposing authoritarian by wealthy oppressors.

At the height of the violence, from 1981 to 1983, the Guatemalan army committed more than 600 massacres. A “truth commission” later estimated that, out of the subset of victims that had been identified, 83 percent belonged to one of Guatemala’s many Maya nations. 

As per the Atlantic, in just one small K’iche’ Maya area in the region of Ixcán, the army carried out 77 separate massacres. One goal was to get the survivors to flee.

And flee they did, which is why an estimated 1.7 million Americans today are of Guatemalan origin.

Honduras to Mexico to Iowa City

Another example: the Cedar Rapids Gazette ran a front-page story on April 21, 2024, reporting on the rate of chronic homelessness among Johnson County’s Latino immigrants. The article tells about Maria Davila Herrera who and her harrowing journey of how, two years ago, she carried her children across the Rio Grande.

After a trek from her native Honduras to Mexico, she took the advice of those she was staying with: “pursue a better life in the United States. If you don’t die crossing the river, reach out to this man when you get across the border.” 

As Herrera tells it, with her 10-year-old daughter clinging to her waist and her 18-year-old disabled son on her shoulders, she set out across the water, a move where life was not guaranteed for anyone, let alone three. “By the grace of God, we made it across,” she said.

And in the time since her family escaped gang violence, domestic violence, and child abuse, she’s seen her daughter blossom, too. With a school she enjoys, now 12-year-old Darling is helping her mother live vicariously just with her smiles.

No matter how many people they share an address with, Herrera told the Gazette reporter, their new home will always feel larger than the place they left in Honduras, described as “a jail.”

The Gazette article goes on to tell that of nearly 500 working immigrants in Iowa City and Coralville, more than half of Latinos live doubled-up, tripled-up or quadrupled-up in housing with other families and individuals. Such crowded living conditions affect Latinos disproportionately more than other immigrants. 

Joe Biden

As a recent report by the Brookings Institution recounted, Trump’s policies aroused vehement opposition from many, and the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee pledged to end them. Once he assumed office, President Joe Biden ended “Remain in Mexico.” A federal judge stayed his move, but the Supreme Court allowed the policy to end. Title 42 ended on May 11, 2023.

The day after, the Biden administration implemented a new “asylum ban.” The policy bars asylum seekers who passed through another country on their way to the southern U.S. border, unless they had previously applied for (and been denied) asylum elsewhere, or were lucky enough to secure a limited appointment time at a port of entry through a new U.S. government app for smartphones, called CBP One. The ACLU is suing the administration to block the ban.

Unfortunately, Biden’s policies failed to manage the southern border effectively. Encounters with migrants at the southwestern border rose to 1.7 million in fiscal year 2021, 2.4 million in FY 2022, and 2.5 million in FY 2023. (In addition, an estimated 600,000 people entered the U.S. undetected, without encountering border agents, in FY 2023.) During the first quarter of FY 2024 (October 1, 2023-December 31, 2023) encounters totaled 785,000, putting the United States on pace for 3.1 million, encounters during the current fiscal year.

Roll forward eight years and polls still show Americans’ rising alarm about the surge in migration. Trump has promised to take control by carrying out “the largest deportation in history.” 

Right now, thousands of human beings are congregating at the U.S. southern border seeking asylum. The inability of the U.S. border officials to identify individuals and accommodate the influx with shelter and food while waiting to process their claims has become the defining issue of this year’s presidential election.

Voters frustrated

A Wall Street Journal national poll conducted in late February found that 20 percent of voters now rank immigration as their top issue, up from 13 percent in December. In the same poll, 65 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of border security, and 71 percent said developments in immigration and border security are headed in the wrong direction. 

Biden has tacked right, pleading with Republicans to sign a bipartisan deal that grants them much of their immigration wish list, including curtailing asylum. Given his druthers, he’d “shut down the border right now and fix it quickly,” he has said. 

Another Wall Street Journal survey, conducted March 17-24 in seven swing states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—found immigration to be among the top two issues for registered voters in every state. At least 72 percent of respondents in each of the states saying the country’s immigration policy and border security were headed in the wrong direction.

Immigration advocates say Biden’s new policy stands in stark contrast to his commitments to overhaul inhumane asylum and deportation processes. It turns asylum protections into a lottery system, they say, often leaving the protection of vulnerable people to chance, while many remain in dangerous conditions. 

By the fall of 2023, Democrats were willing in principle to support a bill that focused entirely on border security without provisions to legalize the status of any migrants who had entered the country illegally, not even the “DREAMers” brought to the United States by their parents while they were infants and children and who knew no other country. A bipartisan team of Senate negotiators produced such a bill, but it did not meet Republican demands, for substantive as well as political reasons.

What exactly are the U.S. immigration policies?

Comprehensive immigration reform, if enacted, would incorporate asylum and regular immigration into one policy and touch virtually every facet of the U.S. immigration system. The U.S. Senate debated such reform in 2006, 2007, and in 2013 when a bipartisan group of senators dubbed the “Gang of Eight” agreed on a bill that would toughen security at the southern border and make it harder for employers to hire migrants who had entered the U.S. illegally while providing legal status and a path to citizenship for millions of such migrants who had resided in the U.S. for many years.

The proposal passed the Senate 68 to 32 with strong bipartisan support. (Iowa’s Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for the bill, and GOP Senator Chuck Grassley voted against it.) But because it did not enjoy the support of a majority of House Republicans, then-Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it to floor for a vote, and the measure died.

Different from regular immigration practices and policies for non-refugees), asylum is a form of protection granted to individuals who can demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Refugee Convention (including the international definition of a refugee) into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.

To be granted asylum, one must meet the definition of a refugee. However, international law recognizes that the refugee status determination process can be lengthy and complex. Therefore, asylum seekers should receive certain protections before a state has officially recognized them as refugees. Asylum seekers begin their process either at an official border entrance or, once having crossed over into the U.S., anywhere at the border (under current law).

It’s this section of immigration law that is the focus of misunderstanding and conflict. People like Texas Governor Greg Abbott see all migrants coming to and crossing into Texas without a visa as “illegal,” a term that resonates with many, especially the GOP. Abbott has implemented numerous strategies to block people from crossing, some inhumane (razor wire, river barricades, walls) and are the subject of federal litigation.

The CBS television show 60 Minutes periodically revisits the issue of migration across the U.S. border. A segment from the March 3, 2024 edition shows the conditions at the Texas border and the measures the governor has implemented. The governor talks about drug cartels, human trafficking, and other crimes in the same breath as migrants wiggling their way through his razor wire. 

Technically, as said, once the asylum seeker touches U.S. soil, he/she is rightfully here, not “illegal” in the sense Abbott and Trump and many Americans use the term.

Before reading on, take a 20-minute break and watch HBO’s John Oliver breaks down Biden’s new wrinkle in immigration policy, and Abbott’s state-level response. In his inimical manner, Oliver brings out the flaws in the policy. After viewing, share with friend and family, and your state legislators.

Trump’s plans for a possible second term

If you open the April 30, 2024 issue of Time Magazine, you’ll find an article by Eric Cortellessa entitled “How Far Trump Would Go.” Cortellessa is a Washington, DC-based political writer. His essay curled my toes and made my head spin.

It’s a 26-minute must, must read. It took me an hour because I went back to read key parts. In olden days, I’d have used a yellow marker to highlight them. Cortellessa interviewed Trump several times, the last time at Mar-a-Lago on April 12.  Cortellessa writes, “I wanted to know what Trump would do if he wins a second term, his vision for the nation, in his own words.”

Cortellessa did indeed hear Trump spill the beans, and he reports his findings in depth. It’s an “imperial presidency,” says Cortellessa, “that would reshape America and its role in the world.” 

I made a checklist of what Trump told the reporter he’d do about immigrants and immigration. Worst was his fairy-tale plan to carry out a deportation operation designed to remove more than 11 million people from the country. Trump said he’d build migrant detention camps and deploy the U.S. military, both at the border and inland.

The irrationality of Trump’s plan is illustrated by a raid sixteen years ago (May 12, 2008) in Postville, Iowa, where the U.S. government spent more than $5 million on what was then the largest immigration raid in the history of the country. Law enforcement arrested 389 undocumented workers, mostly Guatemalan, at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant. The arrests amounted to approximately 20 percent of Postville’s population.  

The story about the raid, written by Christina Fernández-Morrow, was originally published by Hola Iowa and the Hola Iowa blog on the Substack Lea la versión en español aquí. It is republished by Iowa Capital Dispatch on May 12, 2023, via the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative.

As told by Fernández-Morrow, the raid was part of Operation Endgame, launched in 2003, designed to deport 11 million undocumented people by 2012. It was meant as a model to be implemented across the U.S. The raid positioned Postville at the center of international news, becoming a catalyst for changes to workplace laws regarding immigration.

Most of the employees were of Mayan descent, from rural towns in Guatemala and southern Mexico where necessities were scarce. Lured to Postville by the promise of jobs and a better life for their families, in Fernández-Morrow’s telling, they settled in the town, purchasing homes, establishing lives, and bringing an added layer of diversity.

“It was such a unique place before the raid,” Pedro Lopez remembers. He was 13 at the time. “It was a vibrant melting pot of cultures. You had generations of Norwegians, Hassidic Jews from New York, and Eastern European immigrants. Then Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran families came and made the community feel so alive. There was always a community event, a baile, a festival, bautizo, a quince, someone grilling carne asada at the park who would call you over and offer you a taco. I grew up in a super diverse, interesting community in the middle of nowhere.”

Iowa has a new law

The New York Times recently reported on how red states, Iowa included, have passed legislation allowing local police to arrest and deport undocumented migrants. Senate File 2340 is stoking anxiety among immigrant communities, leaving some to wonder: “Should I leave Iowa?”

The law Governor Kim Reynolds signed makes it a state crime for a person to be in Iowa if previously denied admission to or removed from the United States. It mirrors part of a Texas law currently blocked in court.

Defending the bill, Republican State Representative Steve Holt of Denison, “There is a difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration. Yes, there are many in our country and our state illegally who just came here for a better life. We know that.” 

Holt is a retired Marine drill sergeant who came to Denison from South Carolina several years ago when his wife took a teaching job in the high school.

“But” said Holt while floor managing the bill in the Iowa House), “there are also gang-members, drug-dealers, and terrorists who are here endangering our citizens. We know that, too. The federal government has abdicated its responsibilities and states can and must act. Many other states are standing up to protect their sovereignty and their citizens and Iowa must do the same. Iowa has the right, the duty, and the moral obligation to act to protect our citizens and our sovereignty.” 

If we end up in a court battle with the federal government, said Holt during a subcommittee meeting earlier in the year, “bring it on. I think it’s time for every state to stand up and say … ‘we’ve had enough. We will defend our people.’” 

Unfortunately, beyond the Postville fiasco, chasing down migrant workers recalls the iconic 1965 photo of Amish children fleeing into Iowa cornfields to escape school and law enforcement officers who were there to enforce compulsory public education laws. 

The irony of Holt’s animus is the demographic makeup of Denison (the Crawford County seat, located in his House district). About 50 percent of residents are Hispanic individuals, who form the workforce for local meatpacking and manufacturing plants. The bill forbids law enforcement officers from arresting someone if the person is in a school, a place of worship, a health-care facility, or a facility for survivors of sexual assault. Ostensibly, brown-skinned employees could be questioned in their workplace.

What must President Biden do to help asylum seekers?

According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Biden has already expanded pathways for the resettlement of people from Latin America and issued a number of executive orders impacting asylum seekers at the U.S. border, including one that creates a task force to reunite separated families.

However, the Biden Administration should stop defending its ‘asylum ban’, which a federal court found violates U.S. law. Currently, this rule remains in effect while the government negotiates to settle the case challenging it, but the U.S. should recommit to long-held values of providing access to refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution. Here are some solutions the IRC recommends to the Biden Administration to adapt the asylum system to current displacement realities while treating people with dignity.

  • Rescind the “Asylum Ban”. These further restrictions on asylum bar thousands of asylum seekers and return them to danger. This policy runs counter to domestic and international laws that establish the right to seek asylum and promises made by the Biden administration to overhaul inhumane asylum policies.
  • Address the asylum backlog. The current backlog has forced asylum seekers to endure five to seven-year-long waits. Improving the speed at which asylum claims are decided fairly and with due process is needed to create a more humane and orderly asylum system.
  • Expedite Work Permits. Currently, most asylum applicants have to wait at least 180 days for a work permit, which is unsustainable. When people seeking asylum come to the US, they want to work, earn a living, and support themselves and their families as they rebuild their lives and integrate into their new communities. Employers and host communities can also benefit from expedited work permits to meet the needs of an aging workforce and labor shortages, filling critical gaps in the labor market.
  • Invest in smart and humane asylum measures. The U.S. must take a holistic approach to create a smarter, cost-effective and humane asylum system. This includes supporting humane reception that keeps asylum seekers off the streets, providing long-term case management, and improving access to information on legal rights and community resources to combat misinformation and trafficking. 
  • Create a comprehensive humanitarian response in Latin America. The U.S. should work with non-US donors to support humanitarian response plans and work with Latin American countries to harmonize policies that uphold the rights and safety of asylum seekers across the region.

The conservation CATO Institute favors immigration as a necessity for the country’s economic stability. As David Bier, the Associate Director of Immigration Studies at the Cato Institute, told Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, and distinguished members of the Senate Budget Committee:

Our view is simple: people are the ultimate resource. New people are not threats to suppress but assets to celebrate. We need people to transform natural resources into human resources, and in a free country, people seek to do just that. Immigrants are no different. Immigrants are workers, inventors, investors, and entrepreneurs.

Immigrants increase the supply of labor, which increases the supply of goods and services that people need; their consumption, entrepreneurship, and investment also increases the demand for labor, creating better-paying jobs for Americans elsewhere in the economy. Fundamentally, immigrants aren’t competitors. They are collaborators. Unfortunately, America’s immigration system fails to recognize this fact, leading to catastrophic consequences.

In Iowa, Democratic State Senator Nate Boulton recently wrote in a Des Moines Register guest column, “we need more workers.” Boulton cites several GOP initiatives that have negatively affected the states workforce, including loosening of child-labor laws, refusal to raise the minimum wage, reducing  unemployment benefits, frightening immigrant labor, and dismantling Chapter 20, the 40-plus year-old law protecting public employee unions and allowing them to bargain collectively.

“We’re effectively tapped out on our workforce,” said businessman Phil Jasper, president of Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids and chair of the Iowa Business Council. He told the Register earlier this year, “As we’ve said for years now, Iowa’s population needs to grow in order for business to expand and provide opportunities for the next generation of Iowans. Growing our population is an absolute must.” Jasper said the demographic and diversity category was the one needing the most improvement in Iowa, pointing out that the state ranks 30th in the nation for five-year population gain and 34th for net overall migration.

Bottom line: Iowa needs population growth. The aging population is not reproducing children fast enough to meet the needs. Immigration is the only resource. That includes refugees, who face huge challenges to work through asylum laws—and are labeled “illegal” by many Iowans and forced to live in the shadows of society. Taking the long-term view: Iowa is slowly dying and will continue to do so, unless new leadership can find a way forward.

About the Author(s)

Gerald Ott

  • Thoughtful piece

    After Mexico elects their first woman president this summer — and it looks like they will — maybe she’ll have some useful, helpful ideas.

    Who’da thunk — a Jewish woman Mexican president!

    But of course, if Biden loses, American gulags for brown skinned people will be just one of the world’s tragedies created/accelerated by a mentally unwell man in power.

    There would be little she could do.

  • "Taking the long term view..."

    I absolutely support helping refugees and enacting much saner, fairer, and more compassionate  immigration policies.  I do agree with most of this essay.

    At the same time, I am not comfortable with the “bottom line” assertion that “Iowa is slowly dying” and “Iowa needs population growth,” with no qualifications.

    Iowa’s population is growing, and the Des Moines metro is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the Upper Midwest.  Should Iowa’s population grow twice as fast?  Five times as fast?  Twenty times as fast?  Indefinitely?  

    The CATO Institute, as this essay points out, celebrates the endless transformation of “natural resources into human resources.”  But the CATO Institute, from what I’ve read, has shown little concern for the environmental consequences.

    If there is a fundamental conflict between our economic system, which seems to depend on and essentially lobby for endless human population growth, and physical reality, which is that we live on a finite planet where essential life support systems are already stressed and the stress is increasing, it’s the economic system that needs to change.    

  • Prairie Fan

    Good points. Properly said. Iowa is aging. It is common to hear that jobs go unfilled, I agree with your last point. Clearly the whole last paragraph id excess baggage. My main worry is callous attitude toward migrants.

  • Gerald Ott

    I sympathize. I remember an Iowa public meeting years ago wherein a state representative told attendees that he felt almost compelled, in the Iowa Statehouse, to present reasons why taking care of elderly Iowans was good for economic development, because economic development was the unquestioned supreme political value against which all other values had to compete. It’s scary.