Blizzard reading: Iowa, immigration and an “Idyl”

The view from my home this morning.
The view from my home this morning.

As I spend this weekend enduring a blizzard along with my fellow Eastern Seaboard denizens, I’m taking my cues from the great Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl“:

The Almanac we studied o’er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had.) …
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.

One “panoramic” article that I came across this week is from the Des Moines Register, headlined “How a conservative bastion grew to embrace immigrants.” It’s especially timely since the Iowa caucuses are just about a week away. The “bastion” in question is Sioux Center, a town of 7,389 in the northwest part of the state. As Daniel Gonzalez writes,

For decades the demographics of this bastion of Reformed Christians of Dutch ancestry could be summed up in three words: White. Conservative. Republican.

Mitt Romney won 83 percent of the vote here in 2012.

But like many small towns in Iowa, this once homogeneous community is quickly changing. The Hispanic population in Sioux Center has more than tripled since 2000. One in seven Sioux Center residents is now Latino.

Agricultural companies in the area welcome the new arrivals, saying they’re necessary to keep their businesses flourishing:

“I would really like you to quote me on this,” [dairy owner Darin] Dykstra said. “I want the American people to realize that Latino workers aren’t stealing their jobs. They are doing the jobs that American workers do not want to do.”

But, the welcome isn’t just for economic reasons. Gonzalez notes that the town’s Christian values also have a lot to do with it:

Visitors also can’t help but notice all the churches in town. There are at least 20, most affiliated with the evangelical protestant Dutch Reformed Church, as is Dordt College, a private Christian school with 1,400 students.

“It goes back to some of the religious backgrounds of people,” [Sioux City city manager Paul] Clousing said. “They do want to reach out to others.”

(One correction I’d like to make: Dordt, like my alma mater Calvin, is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, not the Dutch Reformed Church — that was an older name of what is now the Reformed Church in America.)

I’m encouraged to see Sioux Center be welcoming and to see journalists like Gonzalez recognize that evangelical Christians aren’t as politically monolithic as they’re often portrayed. Immigration is a complex issue, and the article highlights some of the challenges it presents as well. Still, I hope the multiple parties involved can talk about it civilly and seek to understand each other.

On a lighter note, The Onion also mentioned Iowa this week:

“As both proud Iowans and patriotic American citizens, we have a right to know the exact row and column of our star [on the flag],” said [Gov. Terry] Branstad, voicing concerns that it “better not be on the bottom or way off to the side.”

Whether you live in the Hawkeye State, the D.C. area or somewhere else, I hope you stay warm and safe!