Ahead of Thursday night’s final Republican presidential debate before Monday’s Iowa caucus, immigration advocates called for a more “constructive” conversation on the issue.

Mike Tupper, the police chief in Marshalltown, Iowa, shared that he has seen the effects of the broken immigration system on a daily basis. While he welcomes the conservation of immigration, Tupper said the ongoing rhetoric made during the campaign trail has been "disparaging" and is not helping the dialogue.

"I think it's important that we all remember that immigration is about people," said Tupper during a press call. "We're talking about real people. We turn it into a political issue and we leave the people and the families out of the discussions sometimes and we forget that these are real people being impacted by this discussion. We have a very diverse community ... they want to contribute, they want to be part of our community, they want to work with law enforcement, they want to work with local government and the rhetoric makes it difficult for them to do that."

Tupper, as a law enforcement official, said negative immigration discussion makes it difficult for fellow officials to be effective and keep everyone safe and called for comprehensive immigration reform, which he believes can advance public safety and strengthen communities.

The Marshalltown police chief recently made headlines in opposing Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's visit to Marshalltown. Arpaio, who has been criticized for his hardline stance on immigrants, flew to Iowa on Tuesday to endorse Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump is a leader," Arpaio had said in a statement. "He produces results and is ready to get tough in order to protect American jobs and families. I have fought on the front lines to prevent illegal immigration. I know Donald Trump will stand with me and countless Americans to secure our border. I am proud to support him as the best candidate for President of the United States of America."

Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and son of Colombian immigrants, referenced the Bible and how it's a bedrock of the U.S., which "is a nation of immigrants." Suarez said anti-immigrant rhetoric villanizes hard-working families and does nothing to represent concerns from the conservative and evangelical communities.

"As a Hispanic leader, it's very saddening to see the dehumanization of our immigrant brothers and sisters. For us, this is not a political issue, this is a life issue. ... We need a better laws," added Suarez, who also supports comprehensive immigration reform that will pull 11 million undocumented immigrants "out of the shadows," which he clarified is not necessarily "mass amnesty."

Suarez has the belief that there is middle ground in the conversation of immigration reform, which will respect immigrants' human dignity.

Suarez and Tupper are among the faith, law enforcement and business leaders who held a panel discussion in Davenport, Iowa, on Wednesday night about the need for "broad" immigration reform.

"Iowans recognize that immigration is about people, not politics, and they're not alone," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. "Across the country, local economies, businesses and communities are benefiting from immigrants' contributions.

The event came as Iowa will have its caucuses on Feb. 1.


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