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Nation Could Learn Something from Iowa’s Past Refugee and Immigrant Relations

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A former Iowa political staffer says the nation can learn from Iowa when it comes it comes to immigrant and refugee relations.

As southeast Asians fled their warn torn and communist country in the 70's, the Tai Dam people found an ally in Iowa and in Governor Robert D. Ray. A champion for refugees and immigrants, the former governor fought to help others a world away.

For eight years, David Oman stood by Governor Ray's side as his press secretary and chief of staff. The conflict at the U.S. Mexico boarder brings back memories.

"Right now, we have people being ripped apart from their families," says Oman. "Some of that was going on in the mid to late 70`s but you literally had people dying. People were losing their lives."

The idea of welcoming thousands of refugees into Iowa took convincing but Oman says overall people were more trusting back then. He says the current day immigration crisis may be more difficult to overcome.

"We're in an era of terror and security of our boarders. Our population at large matters a lot more these days," he says. "Now the divide comes over how you do it and how it gets applied."

Oman believes what the country needs right now is leaderships and resolution and should look to Governor Ray's humanitarian accomplishments to do so.

"This is an opportunity to look back at this moment and understand how at that time one politician and one state got it right. Help these people keep their families together, stay alive and to have a life," Oman says.

TheĀ  first Tai Dam refugees were brought to Iowa in 1975.