Jun 1, 2021 - News

Des Moines leaders call out anti-refugee rhetoric

Drake University President Marty Martin speaks during a May 14 commencement ceremony

Drake University President Marty Martin speaks during a May 14 commencement ceremony. Photo: Screenshot of Drake University's online video

At least two community leaders are using their platforms to denounce anti-refugee rhetoric.

  • Last month, Drake University President Marty Martin and Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders drew attention to state leaders' words and actions regarding refugee policies.

Catch up fast: Gov. Kim Reynolds this year rejected a federal request for Iowa to help house migrant children.

“This is not our problem. This is the president's problem. He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it."
Gov. Reynolds, on WHO radio

What they're saying: During a May 14 commencement ceremony, Martin recounted Iowa's history of welcoming more than 2,600 Tai Dam refugees to the state in the 1970s under then-Gov. Robert Ray.

  • "Governor Ray did not say in any of those instances that it was someone else's problem," Martin said. (You can watch his speech here, which begins around the 28-minute mark.)
  • During a meeting Friday, Sanders told the City Council that the state's refugee and human equality policies weren't "a good image" of Iowa this year.
  • "It does matter that Iowa and Des Moines has a sense of belonging and welcome to the rest of the community and to the rest of the world," Sanders said.

Why it matters: Beyond obvious humanitarian reasons, maintaining a welcoming community is essential for the area's growth — particularly considering its worker shortages — as well as the state's cultural vitality.

What's next: Sanders said a large group of business representatives are talking about the problem but he didn’t elaborate about possible next steps.


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