COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — Ramon Calzada says recent comments by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' about unvaccinated immigrants being "part of the problem" is scapegoating.
"As we know, the immigrant population in the state of Iowa is less than 10% of the population. The majority of them are perhaps not vaccinated because of the lack of language access and the cultural competency of some of the agencies trying to reach out to the communities," said Calzada, executive director of Centro Latino of Iowa, a nonprofit serving Hispanics and Latinos in Council Bluffs.
According to the state website, less than half of Iowa residents are fully vaccinated. 72% of positive COVID-19 tests are not Hispanic or Latino.
"The majority of unvaccinated people are Trump supporters. They are part of the GOP," Calzada said. "So these are mechanisms tried and true for the Republican Party to pivot away from acknowledging what is going on within their base."
University of Iowa professor Lina-Maria Murillo says Reynolds' statement hurts communities of color.
"It's frightening to them, they fear, they fear for themselves, they fear for their families," Murillo said.
Calzada said we should focus on helping the marginalized, rather than blaming them.
"To create this kind of statement and rhetoric can be very divisive and also can create fear among immigrants who are here for one reason, to work and to have a better life," Calzada said.
Reynolds justified the expense, saying problems at the border have contributed to issues in other states and Iowa, which she said has seen an increase in illegal drug trafficking including fentanyl. She called it an investment well spent and says she will continue to evaluate the needs on the border and whether Iowa law enforcement might be useful again there.