In the aftermath of Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson's public call to make undocumented immigrants who don't leave voluntarily the “property of the state of Iowa” and forced into “compelled labor,” the state's largest newspaper published two opinion columns condemning Mickelson's rhetoric and calling for an end to attacks on immigrants.
On the August 17 broadcast of his radio show, Mickelson proposed a plan to drive undocumented immigrants out of Iowa by posting signs around the state saying that after an allotted time, any undocumented immigrant who remained in Iowa would become “property of the state of Iowa” and as such, would be forced to perform manual labor such as building a wall between Mexico and the United States.
Two columnists at The Des Moines Register called out Mickelson's comments, rebuking his rhetoric and calling for more civility in the immigration debate. In her August 22 column for The Register, Rekha Basu called Mickelson “this year's chief demagogue” for attacking undocumented immigrants and warned that by putting ideas immigrant slaver on the table, “people assume it has legitimacy.” She urged that the debate over immigration be held “in a responsible way,” and continued:
This inflammatory rhetoric is a long way from the approach of past GOP leaders like former President George W. Bush and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. Iowa's beloved former Iowa Gov. Bob Ray, who welcomed Southeast Asian war refugees in the 1970s, issued a statement earlier this year supporting Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free legal services to unaccompanied undocumented minors. “Iowa is a welcoming state!” Ray declared. At least it was then.
I'm hopeful most Iowans will respond to Mickelson's slave-ownership plan by showing it still is.
Kyle Munson also criticized Mickelson's comments in an August 23 Register column, writing that after he heard what was said, he went to talk to Mickelson at the Iowa State Fair. Munson told readers that Mickelson “reaffirmed in person what he said on air,” and added:
I just can't wrap my mind around Mickelson's proposal, whether as an intentionally controversial rhetorical device or serious policy. Makes me think of the horrific workhouses of Victorian England.
Like Basu, Munson -- who is hosting a forum on immigration where audience members will be able to discuss and debate the issue with panelists and presidential candidates -- called for civility in the immigration debate. He wrote, “As a columnist it would be easier for me to radicalize this immigration issue than to try to bring everybody beneath a big tent to be more productive. But I believe wholeheartedly that it's worth it.”