What strange bedfellows we can find, when social issues and economic issues come bashing together. Like corn mixed in with the mashed potatoes, it looks kind of funny, but it can work.
Today, I began to hear about a letter to a bunch of potential Republican candidates for president that is making some waves, put together by a loose Iowa coalition of - and I'm not making this up - churches, immigration activisits and dairy farmers.
This is a pretty diverse group if ever you'll find one, but when you think about it, it does make some sense - all three groups have some interest in the immigrants that flow into Iowa from Mexico and elsewhere.
The faith community is acting on their soul-saving humanitarian instincts, and perhaps hoping to fill pews and collection plates. Activists, acting on their human rights mission, and no doubt also hoping to capitalize on the political clout of a potenitally huge Hispanic voting bloc in Iowa at a time when voter apathy runs high.
But what in the heck do dairy farmers have to do with immigration policy?
Doesn't take much pondering to figure that one out. A study in 2009 tells us that as many as 50 percent of farm laborers are not only immigrants - but undocumented immigrants.
Any crackdown on illegals could, then, cripple the industry in a hurry.
The text of the letter leaves nothing to doubt: "Numerous persons involved in agri-business in northwest Iowa have told us their businesses would suffer greatly, possibly going out of business, if it were not for the productive work of their immigrant employees."
Churches, activists and farmers are no fools. They dashed their plea off to folks like Jeb Bush, Chris Cristie, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker - the usual cast of characters - just ahead of this weekend's Iowa Agricultural Summit, where most of political hopefuls are expected to show up, trying to look like they understand and care about farming long enough to capture votes in Iowa's vital early caucuses.
Conservative Republicans have typically held a hard line on illegal immigration, but are faced with the realization that 77 percent of Iowans in a 2013 poll favored policy reform including a path to citizenship - and the fact that if legal Latinos organize, they have enough bodies to potentially decide the next occupant of the White House.
Now, they can't help but know that much of the heartland's business depends on immigrant labor. It is going to be tough to tell those people that their workers need to be shipped back across the border.
"Just the other day, I talked to a cattle farmer who conveyed to me that his Mexican farm hand is indispensible but he's worried he will lose him due to his immigration status," says Jennifer Horner of the Latina Research Center in Red Oak.
"I have heard from many agricultural business owners who quietly express that their business would not survive without immigrant workers."
Now this is a complete sea change in attitude. Even a year ago, the cry across Iowa was to prosecute businesses that hired illegals and thus served as "job magnets" to lure in more undocumented immigrants. Now, people are realizing just what could happen if we lose those people. Careful what you ask for, I guess.
This is all well and good. We should not fear those who come here to work hard and make a better life for their families, in fact, our country needs to look for such people and make their path to permitted work or legal citizenship less daunting and overpriced.
But, what nags at me is this.
This whole campaign, and much of the attention focused on immigrant policy, seems to see newcomers to the country only as perpetual cheap labor to be exploited. These businesses would not go out of business because illegal workers are taken away, they would go out of business because the can't or won't pay wages and benefits that would attract enough Americans to fill hard-labor jobs in fields and factories.
Not to say that all employers take advantage - many farm operations, construction businesses and corporations here take great care of and value their immigrant workers, and a few may make it possible for them to advance to foreman or management positions eventually.
But I worry that we see a whole class of people - a big segment of the Storm Lake population included - as only laborers, to do jobs nobody else wants.
These are human beings, not cogs in a machine to be used until they wear down, and be replaced with another.
There is no shame in any honest job, in fact, there is beauty and dignity in labor. I see nothing wrong with matching hard-working people with good jobs that need them. It matters less to me where these people come from, compared to where they will be going.
Which is hopefully to become legal, productive and involved citizens of our community with opportunity to grow and achieve. We have a Citizens Leadership Academy and a new Latino League organization in town that are working hard in those directions. Politicians would do well to look and learn, and realize there is more to the world than building razor-wire fences.
It is clear that current Washington leadership is incapable of real change in immigration policy. Good luck to the next president; he or she is going to need it.