The Iowa caucuses are the first major contest in the race for the American presidency. In the weeks leading up to caucus night, candidates descend on the state to shake hands, kiss babies, and woo supporters. While the caucuses don’t always signal which candidates will go on to win their party’s nomination, they do set the tone for the race going forward. And in this election cycle, the immigration rhetoric in Iowa has been uniquely harsh.
The number of Latinos in Iowa has doubled in the last decade, but they’re not just flocking to Des Moines and other urban centers. Immigration has radically transformed the state’s rural heartland, which was once lily-white. Fueled by the meatpacking industry’s demand for cheap labor, small towns like Storm Lake now have schools with student bodies that are 82 percent non-white.
With Republican candidates calling for ramped-up deportations and closed borders, young undocumented activist Kenia Calderon has made it her mission to include immigrant rights in the political conversation.