Iowa radio host and influential conservative kingmaker Jan Mickelson unveiled an immigration plan that would make undocumented immigrants who don't leave the country after an allotted time “property of the state,” asking, “What's wrong with slavery?” when a caller criticized his plan.
On the August 17 edition of his radio show, Mickelson announced that he had a plan to drive undocumented immigrants out of Iowa that involved making those who don't leave “property of the state” who are forced into “compelled labor,” like building a wall on the US-Mexican border. Listen (emphasis added in transcript):
JAN MICKELSON: Now here is what would work. And I was asked by an immigration open border's activist a couple of weeks ago, how I would get all the illegals here in the state of Iowa to leave. “Are you going to call the police every time you find an illegal, are you going to round them up and put them in detention centers?”
I said, “No you don't have to do any of that stuff.”
“Well you going to invite them to leave the country and leave Iowa?”
And I said, “Well, sort of.”
“Well how you going to do it, Mickelson? You think you're so smart. How would you get thousands of illegals to leave Iowa?”
Well, I said, “Well if I wanted to do that I would just put up some signs.”
“Well what would the signs say?”
I said, "Well I'd would put them on the end of the highway, on western part of the interstate system, and I'd put them on the eastern side of the state, right there on the interstate system, and in the north on the Minnesota border, and on the south Kansas and Missouri border and I would just say this: 'As of this date' -- whenever we decide to do this -- 'as of this date, 30--' this is a totally arbitrary number, '30 to 60 days from now anyone who is in the state of Iowa that who is not here legally and who cannot demonstrate their legal status to the satisfaction of the local and state authorities here in the State of Iowa, become property of the State of Iowa.' So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you're still here, and we find that you're still here after we we've given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.
“Well how would you apply that logic to what Donald Trump is trying to do? Trying to get Mexico to pay for the border and for the wall?”
"Same way. We say, 'Hey, we are not going to make Mexico pay for the wall, we're going to invite the illegal Mexicans and illegal aliens to build it. If you have come across the border illegally, again give them another 60-day guideline, you need to go home and leave this jurisdiction, and if you don't you become property of the United States, and guess what? You will be building a wall. We will compel your labor. You would belong to these United States. You show up without an invitation, you get to be an asset. You get to be a construction worker. Cool!'
When a caller confronted Mickelson and said his plan amounted to “slavery,” Mickelson replied, “What's wrong with slavery?” Mickelson told the caller his plan was “moral,” “legal,” and “politically doable” and should be modeled after Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio's “tent village” (emphasis added in transcript):
MICKELSON: So anyway back to the point. Put up a sign that says at the end of 60 days, if you are not here with our permission, can't prove your legal status, you become property of the state. And then we start to extort or exploit or indenture your labor. This is Fred. Good morning Fred.
CALLER: Hey good morning, how are you?
MICKELSON: I'm doing great.
CALLER: Great. Well you caught me--I was up at 4 o'clock this morning, I'm travelling from Tulsa through Des Moines. I think I'll stop by the state fair to see Carly and them, but your idea is clever on the face but it sounds an awful lot like slavery. I don't think - I think it'll go over like a lead balloon.
MICKELSON: No, just read the Constitution, Fred. What does the Constitution say about slavery?
CALLER: Well didn't we fix that in about 1865?
MICKELSON: Yeah we sure did and I'm willing to live with their fix. What does the 13th Amendment say?
CALLER: Well you know I don't have my Constitution in front of me and you know like I say, it sounds like a clever idea and maybe you can make it - put it in action, but I think the fall out would be so significant. And I, you know --
MICKELSON: What would be the nature of the fall out?
CALLER: Well I think everybody would believe it sounds like slavery?
MICKELSON: Well, what's wrong with slavery?
CALLER: Well we know what's wrong with slavery.
MICKELSON: Well apparently we don't because when we allow millions of people to come into the country who aren't here legally and people who are here are indentured to those people to pay their bills, their education of their kids, pay for their food, their food stamps, their medical bills, in some cases even subsidize their housing, and somehow the people who own the country, who pay the bills, pay the taxes, they get indentured to the new people who are not even supposed to be here. Isn't that a lot like slavery?
CALLER: Well you know, you're singing my song; we're all slaves today the way the government is growing -
MICKELSON: If that's the case, maybe it's time to reverse the process. Isn't this a perfectly good time to do that?
CALLER: Well that'll swing the pendulum back in a pretty broad swing and maybe too far and we may end up swinging back the other way further left than we are right now. I take it about halfway Jan. I think it's a clever idea, it's worth throwing out there. It isn't an easy topic -
MICKELSON: No this is pretty simple, actually this is very simple, what my solution is moral and it's legal. And I can't think - and it's also politically doable.
CALLER: So are you going to house all these people who have chosen to be indentured?
MICKELSON: Yes, yes, absolutely in a minimal fashion. We would take a lesson from Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio down in Arizona. Put up a tent village, we feed and water these new assets, we give them minimal shelter, minimal nutrition, and offer them the opportunity to work for the benefit of the taxpayers of the state of Iowa. All they have to do to avoid servitude is to leave.
CALLER: [laughing] Hey, good luck.
MICKELSON: All right, thank you very much I appreciate it.
CALLER: You bet. You bet.
MICKELSON: You think I'm just pulling your leg. I am not.
Mickelson has a history of making racially-charged, anti-immigrant remarks but he also has a strong pull with conservative caucus voters in Iowa. His influence is so big that he recently hosted several 2016 GOP candidates on his show, including Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson during their visits to the Iowa State Fair. After Mickelson defended his immigrant-slave plan, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) appeared on his show. Not surprisingly, Mickelson's immigration plan didn't come up.