Governor Branstad Monday opened the door to the possibility of settling Syrian refugees in Iowa if a bill before Congress to tighten screening procedures becomes law.  

The bill would require that the director of the FBI and other top security officials approve all applicants from Syria and Iraq and assure they pose no threat.   

Otherwise, Branstad says letting the refugees in is not safe.

“If instead we're working as a country I'd feel much safer and more willing to do that,” Branstad says. 

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

The immigrant workers who pick crops like cotton and melons in the U.S. can have a tough time finding a place to live. The rural areas where they can find work often lack social services and affordable housing. That means many farm worker families end up in dilapidated buildings, which can come with health risks.

Angel Castro's old road is muddy and covered with flooded potholes. He lived here during the 1990s just behind a large John Deere store in Kennett, Mo.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A double-wall fence across the entire southern U.S. border would work to keep immigrants out, and it could be built within one year of a new administration in Washington.  

That’s from Arkansas Governor and now GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, addressing a crowd of about a hundred people at the Westside Breakfast Club at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale.  

Huckabee would model the fence on a double wall in San Diego that reduced the apprehension of immigrants from Tijuana, Mexico. 

Gage Skidmore/flickr

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says legislation to crack down on illegal immigrants is meeting with opposition in the Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee that Grassley chairs in the U.S. Senate.   

As proposed by Grassley, the bill would levy a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for felons who are deported and then return to the country. 

 Grassley says mandatory minimums have become controversial.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum today appeared before the Westside Conservative Breakfast club in Urbandale where he staked out one of the most conservative positions on immigration in the Republican race for president.    

Santorum wants to limit not just illegal immigration but legal entry into the country.    

Santorum says too many people are coming here legally and competing for American jobs.

Photo by Poncie Rutsch/KUNC


Many of the more than 3 million migrant farmworkers that plant and pick the fruits and vegetables we eat in the U.S. live on the farms they work for. But the rules that govern farmworker housing may be changing, worrying both farmers and migrant worker advocates.

Wikipedia / Ser Amantio di Nicolao

The Iowa Supreme Court says it can’t grant post-conviction relief to an immigrant trying to avoid deportation.

In 2011, Victor Hernandez-Galarza pleaded guilty to using a false social security number to title vehicles. Because of his "willingness to surrender" Hernandez-Galarza was offered a deferred judgment for lesser charges.

Hernandez-Galarza successfully completed probation and his record was expunged. 

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When Jon Slutsky’s dairy farm in Wellington, Colo. is fully staffed, it’s a moment to celebrate.

Big Stock Photo

new report says President Obama’s executive action on immigration likely won’t have a huge impact on Midwest agriculture. 

Stephanie Mercier, who wrote the report for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, says the presidential order does not address the needs of Midwest employers. They often want year-round temporary workers, something current law does not permit.

Justin Valas

The President's order to protect five million undocumented immigrants from deportation has been welcomed by some, condemned by others.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media file photo

After spending years pushing for immigration reform, the agriculture sector has mixed reviews on changes to the immigration system that President Obama announced Thursday.

Amy Mayer/IPR

In a dimly-lit lab on the Des Moines public schools’ agricultural science campus, students in aprons, safety goggles and plastic gloves poke and probe chicken wings. About 15 girls and just one boy in this vet careers class are looking for ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other features of this animal part that teenagers more often experience cooked and covered in barbecue sauce.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Bear Creek Dairy in Brooklyn, Iowa, is home to more than 1,100 cows, who provide about 100,000 pounds of milk each day.

Politicians Weigh In On Immigrant Children

Jul 23, 2014
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

More than 52,000 have crossed the southern border since October and US politicians are having trouble finding solutions and the right rhetoric. 

Ryan Henderson

Governor Terry Branstad is defending his reluctance to grant asylum to unaccompanied children fleeing extreme violence in Central America.

"It would be wrong for us to send a signal that if you come here illegally, we're just gonna disperse you throughout the country and you don't have to go home."

Social justice advocate Connie Ryan Terrell of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa says many in Iowa’s faith community are disappointed with Branstad's decision, since the state has a history of welcoming immigrants.

Nick Knupffer

Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today’s that’s changed.

assortedstuff / flickr

The Obama administration is asking for #3.7 billion in emergency funds from Congress to address the flood of unaccompanied children coming illegally into the U.S.

Today on River to River, we talk about the politics behind this latest chapter in the immigration debate. Also, our guests analyze the latest developments in the Middle East, Ukraine and the disputed presidential election in Afghanistan.

Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has resigned his post in the wake of a series of scandals at Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. During this News Buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Des Moines Register Health Care Reporter Tony Leys about how the announcement could affect Iowa's VA hospitals. He also tells us about a possibly mismanaged case at the Iowa City VA

Do You Live Along I-35?

May 29, 2014

New York Times reporter Damien Cave and photographer Todd Heisler are spending the summer driving north along Interstate 35. Why? They're hoping to paint a picture of how immigration is transforming communities along that route. Cave is normally based in Mexico City, Mexico and says in the week they’ve spent traveling north through Texas, they’re already hearing drastically different ideas about immigration and Mexican culture has changed certain communities in the United States.

On a strict party-line vote, the Iowa Senate  approved legislation backers  say will help crack down on employers who stiff workers for their wages.   Lawmakers say they hear often from immigrant workers in particular in construction and other industries who say they did the work for contractors but didn’t get paid.   Some employers tell a different story.

John Pemble/ Iowa Public Radio

Iowa schools are becoming more diverse, and English Language Learning services are in greater need.  Districts are trying to adapt, and the Iowa legislature has some ideas for addressing the issue.  On this Legislative Day River to River program, guests include Des Moines Senator Janet Petersen, Council Bluffs Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, Legislative Analyst for the Urban Education Network Margaret Buckton, English Language Learners Program Coordinator for the Des Moines Public Schools Vinh Nguyen, and Director of Refugee Services at Lutheran Services in Iowa Nick Wuertz.

Joseph Geha

The novel Lebanese Blonde transports readers to Little Syria, a neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio that is populated by immigrants and first generation Arab Americans. In his first novel, short story writer Joseph Geha shows us our world as it is seen through the eyes of people who came here looking for new opportunities for a new life.

The original broadcast of this interview aired on February 4, 2013

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer sits down with Congressman Dave Loebsack from Iowa’s 2nd District to discuss his thoughts on a potential a military strike on Syria, the stalled Farm Bill, immigration reform, and the next debt ceiling.

U.S. Forestry Service Region 5

The Emerald Ash Borer is spreading through Iowa.  It has now been found in Burlington.  Hear how the insect spreads and what is being done about it.  New rules are in effect for boaters on Iowa's waterways aimed at preventing the spread of invasive plants and animals.

Also, in the second half of the program, we talk about a Cuban baseball player that defected to the U.S. while in Des Moines.  And we wrap up the hour with a discussion about the weather and how Iowa's crops are reacting.

Chris Larimer, UNI /

Think you know which of Iowa's counties is most democratic, or most republican?  University of Northern Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Larimer crunched the numbers.

davnull / Flickr

About half of Americans say the leak of classified information dealing with NSA surveillance serves the public interest.  Slightly more say that whistleblower  Edward Snowden should face prosecution. Host Ben Kieffer examines this split in public opinion and the claims that this surveillance has foiled dozens of terrorist plots.  Also analysis of the G-8 summit and the implications of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on voting rights.

Pat Blank

Five years ago, on May 12, 2008, Postville's kosher meat packing plant was the site the largest immigration raid in Iowa history. Iowa Public Radio's Pat Blank talks with some of those who were there then and who are still there now

Flickr / zamburak

On May 12, 2008 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement descended on Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, IA.  The raid resulted in the deportation of over 300 individuals—the largest immigration raid in Iowa’s history.  River to River looks back on the raid to examine how its affected the community of Postville and the families who were torn apart five years ago.  Also, what can be learned from Postville that can inform understanding on comprehensive immigration reform?

John Pemble / IPR

Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell joins IPR "Morning Edition" Host Sarah McCammon for a preview of this week's Iowa legislative news.


  A Democrat-dominated panel in the Iowa Senate has  signed off on a bill to give certain young immigrants a break if they want to attend an Iowa  community college or Regents University.    The bill would mandate  in-state tuition for so-called dreamers, young people who were brought to the United States as children by undocumented parents, and who have attended Iowa primary and secondary schools.   In the meantime,  the Regents  universities say at least some dreamers are already claiming  status as Iowa residents.