Muscatine agency helps migrants to fuel the farm economy

MUSCATINE, Iowa -

Immigration policy has a direct impact on the ag-economy.  That's because area farmers depend on hundreds of migrant workers.

Some 600 migrants will be arriving in coming weeks for Iowa farm work.  It makes immigration policy even more important.

Sweet corn harvest is a delicious ritual in Eastern Iowa.  Like detasseling, though, it's tough work than runs from sunrise to sunset.

"Very difficult conditions that they work in," said Rosa Mendoza, executive director of Diversity Service Center of Iowa, on Monday, April 30.  "They're willing to do it."

Without migrant support, it would be nearly impossible to accomplish.

"Who's going to do the job?" she continued.  "Who's willing to sacrifice all those hours?"

Mendoza, who picked tomatoes as a youngster, now provides outreach to immigrants in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

"Their goal is to work and give their best," she said.  "That's so they can then support their families."

Mendoza is watching any developments with the Central American caravan.  Some 200 asylum seekers remain waiting at the U.S. border for the second straight day.

While she believes that the U.S. must have immigration policies and a system, she's also sympathetic to their plight.

"They're coming, fleeing violence and crime in their country," she said.  "What can you do?"

Seasonal workers on six-month visas are a common sight on area farms.  But Mendoza says that employers are struggling now to find enough help. Help to fill jobs that nobody else will take.

"They're coming by faith," she said.  "I hope they understand they are human just like us, and they have a need."