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State can do better job on illegal immigration, Iowans say in poll

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The majority of Iowans believe state officials can do a better job of handling the immigration issue than the federal government, according to a new Iowa Poll.

The poll, published in a copyright story in The Des Moines Register, showed that 55 percent of Iowans say the state can deal more effectively with immigration than the federal government.

Less than 40 percent felt the federal government was more effective.

The random telephone survey of 801 adults was conducted Feb. 17-20 by Selzer & Co. Inc., of Des Moines. It has a sampling margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The Legislature is considering proposals to deal with illegal immigration. The poll showed wide support for penalizing company executives who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. There was lesser support for a proposal to add state troopers to help enforce federal immigration laws.

Carolyn Robertson of Iowa City said the federal government have failed to effectively address the issue.

"The federal government has so much bureaucracy, they can't seem to do anything about it," Robertson said. "They've said they'll do something. But when push comes to shove, they haven't."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said he expects a Democratic proposal to fine corporate executives $100,000 if they knowingly hire illegal immigrants to come up for debate. He doubted the Republican plan to add state troopers would advance.

"Our approach has been to go after what creates the attraction, and that's the jobs," Gronstal said. "We'll never be able to deport, as a state. That's a function of the federal government. So nabbing 50 people when we don't have the capacity to say, 'We're sending you back,' what's the point?"

While the poll showed 85 percent of Iowans support the Democratic proposal, it showed 69 percent favor hiring more troopers.

"As far as immigration, I would tend to be very strict in that area," said Michele Camp, 30, of Colfax, who supports both the corporate penalty and trooper addition ideas. "I think it's a big mess, and it's going to take forever to get straightened out. But we've got to start somewhere."

While those surveyed found immigration to be less important than improving education and expanding access to health care, they ranked it higher than restricting cell phone use by teen drivers, clarifying the state's marriage law and the proposed statewide smoking ban.

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