Top Stories
Top Stories

What Iowa doesn't tell us about immigration

What matters to core Iowa voters

Iowa's electorate may be the first litmus test of American voters — but it is far from representative when it comes to immigration issues, according to a pro-immigration technology lobbying group.

Presidential hopefuls Monday were mobilizing their supporters into the final stretch of the Iowa caucuses, a crucial first step on the way to clinching a nomination from one of the major political parties. But the anti-immigration rhetoric that fired up voters in mostly white Iowa may not carry through to other states, Todd Schulte, president of, told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Monday.

"For the first time, a major party [is] putting forth people who are saying they are going to round up and deport 11.5 million people; they're going to eliminate high-skilled immigration," Schulte said. "And look, that may get you a win or second place in the Iowa caucuses. That is just a horrible and fatal position in a general election.", a group founded by Silicon Valley insiders like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, favors immigration reforms like a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, securing the borders and streamlining the employment verification system. Technology executives like Zuckerberg have been vocal proponents of increasing the cap on H-1B visas granted to skilled workers like scientists, engineers or computer programmers.

"As a nation, historically, an immigration system and a country that welcomes immigrants has been our greatest competitive advantage," Schulte said. "That's incredibly true in a global economy. If you look at the role that high-skilled immigrants have played in driving innovation, in driving manufacturing, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies are started by an immigrant or children of immigrants. Half of start-ups in Silicon Valley ... have at least one immigrant founder."

Judgment day in Iowa for presidential hopefuls

It's a message that's met opposition from presidential contenders like Donald Trump, who has called for mass deportations and widespread immigration bans over the course of his campaign.

Trump currently has a tight lead over fellow Republican Ted Cruz in Iowa, according to last week's Quinnipiac University Poll and Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll. Cruz also has slammed his opponents, like Marco Rubio, for being soft on immigration while campaigning in Iowa.

Iowa's electorate is more than 90 percent white, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. overall, in comparison, is about 66 percent white. About 74 percent of Americans believe that there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with a slightly lower approval rating among white voters (68 percent) and a higher share of black and Hispanic voters (83 percent and 87 percent, respectively), according to a September 2015 survey by Pew Research.

"The question to me is not what's going to happen tonight," Schulte said. "The question to me is, 'What's going to happen in a larger primary election or a general election?'"