A trip to Perry shows why we need immigration reform

I went to Perry, Iowa (pop. 7,836) on Friday to help train a new reporter at Raccoon Valley Radio. Perry is about an hour and a half drive from my house. I had planned to arrive mid-morning, but around 5:30 a hunch told me to leave soon. So I did.

I arrived at the Perry radio station around 7:30am and was told the new guy was going to start his day at a Perry Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting at Quality Marble and Tile. I thought I would meet him there and arrived about fifteen minutes early. Like any good small-town journalist, I introduced myself and started chatting with people, looking for news. I wanted to know who was who and who had stories to tell to help the newbie get off to a good start.

As 8 a.m. approached, I wondered where my new guy was. When the chamber of commerce manager started talking at 8:02 a.m. and the new one still wasn’t there, I knew it was good to have trusted my instincts to come to Perry earlier. . Otherwise, we would have missed the ribbon cutting.

We gathered in a circle outside the quality marble and tile workshop, where they make stone cabinet tops and more. Their showroom is in Grimes. Before the ribbon was cut, the chamber manager asked those gathered if they had any updates to share. Most have. It was a gold mine for potential reporting, and I passed out my business cards like I was throwing confetti.

What about my news guy? He showed up at 8:18 a.m., when most of the discussion was over.

Standing outside Quality Marble and Tile in Perry are, left to right, Niho Kahrimanovic, Dina Kahrimanovic, Samira Kahrimanovic and Hajro Kahrimanovic. The company also has a location in Grimes. (Photo by Robert Leonard)

Dina Kahrimanovic, the center-left young woman in the photo on the left, interviewed me about the company. To his right is his uncle Niho. To his left are his mother, Samira, and his father Hajro.

When the Kahrimanovic family fled Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war, Dina was a girl. They went first to Germany and then to the United States to find their home in Iowa. During our interview, she told me about their company and their background. As the store was noisy, we went out into the shade. Please listen to Dina.

She says the family started the business in Des Moines in 2001, moved to Grimes around 2010, then moved the manufacturing shop to Perry in 2018.

Hajro Kahrimanovic talks about stone cutting with intensity, love and joy. (Photo by Robert Leonard)
A stone cutting table at Quality Marble and Tile in Perry, Iowa. (Photo by Robert Leonard)
The Kahrimanovic family in front of a marble table in their Perry store. (Photo by Robert Leonard)

I wanted to take a picture of the family in front of this table (Dina’s mother was busy with other tasks). Hajro insisted on tilting the table so the granite could be seen behind them. He is very proud of the quality of the stone they have and their craftsmanship.

The Kahrimanovic family are immigrants. They came up with a vision, started from scratch, and built a successful business. We are lucky they chose us; we are all better off because they did.

Food photographer from Brazil

As we were making introductions at the grand opening, a young woman told us she was a food photographer. Her name is Nath Rocha, and the strawberry picture at the top of this post is hers. Nath came to the studio for an interview.

Please listen. Let her talk to you. Listen to his important voice.

Nath Rocha, a Brazilian food photographer, records an interview for Raccoon Valley Radio. (Photo by Robert Leonard)

Nath is originally from Brazil, having arrived in the United States in 2016. She fell in love with a young man whose father lives in Perry, and they got married. They spend the summer and fall in Perry and the winter and spring in Phoenix. If you visit just one website today, choose theirs. Click here! You will not regret it.

Nath is an immigrant. She chose us. We are lucky to have him. She has created a successful business in Iowa and Arizona and uses her art to grow local businesses and our economy.

Nath tells me that she loves photographing food because food brings us together, regardless of our culture. Here is his beautiful work on Instagram. She and her work are a gift.

After an “interesting” day with the new guy, and as I was about to go home, some breaking local news came in. The Perry High School Homecoming Court has been named!

Perry High School Homecoming Yard: Back row, left to right: Jefry Gonzalez, Jonathan Chavez, Anthony Chavez, Fithawi Andemichael, Kyle Hernandez. Front row: Sarai Ramos, Lydia Olejniczak, Yamilet Ortega, Cloe Nance. Not pictured: Taylor Atwell. (Photo by Robert Leonard)

As you can tell from their names, many of these students are likely from recent immigrant families. We are lucky that their families chose to live in Iowa.

Iowa Needs Immigrants

As of this writing, Iowa has 83,681 open jobs. I know business leaders want immigration reform. A local industrialist told me that she could employ 100 people tomorrow.

In the first months of 2022, more than 100 million people have been displaced around the world as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.

Immigrants have proven time and again how much they have to offer, and it’s clear we need them to help us solve our labor crisis. Congress must act now.

I wrote more about how badly rural America needs immigrants in The New York Times, TIME, and why immigration reform isn’t happening in this sub-pile if you’re interested.

I’m going back to Perry tomorrow to help the new guy. Hope it’s on time…

About Eleanor Blackburn

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