© 2021 Iowa Public Radio
IPR20012_Website_Header_Option2_NewsNavy.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
640 WOI-AM (Ames) will be off air on Tuesday, December 7th, at 3pm for approximately one hour for maintenance.
State Government News
Iowa Public Radio's Culture and Diversity reports go in-depth to examine what it is like to be a minority in Iowa. The reports look at the issues, history, cultural traditions, challenges and future of each diverse group of people that are part of Iowa. Correspondent Rob Dillard and other IPR reporters tell the stories by talking with the leaders and having intimate discussions with some members of each group, and taking listeners to the places that exemplify these communities.Iowa Public Radio's Culture and Diversity reporting is funded in part by The Principal Financial Group Foundation and The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation.

Bill to Require Iowa Communities to Cooperate with Immigration Authorities Advances in Iowa House

IMG_6159.JPG
Joyce Russell/IPR
/
Protesters at statehouse committee room.

Opponents of a bill backers say would outlaw so-called sanctuary cities in Iowa filled a committee room to overflowing at the statehouse today.

The bill would deny state funds to any community that approves policies to prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Under the bill, communities would be required to detain a jailed person for possible deportation at the request of federal officials. 

We're not going to make this situation any better by local municipalities continuing to thumb their nose at the federal government. -Rep. Greg Heartsill

Backers say the bill concerns itself only with immigrants charged with criminal offenses. But Iowa law enforcement agencies oppose the bill. They argue it will make undocumented immigrants retreat into the shadows instead of reporting crimes.

“Just the peripheral conversations, the rumors, and so on spread a wave of fear in our communities that greatly impact our ability to create, maintain, and grow relationships,” said Storm Lake Chief of Police Mark Prosser.  

“I’m not aware of any communities in Iowa that do not cooperate with the federal government or law enforcement partners,” said Marshalltown Chief of Police Michael Tupper.  “What I’m concerned about is it actually works to diminish public safety in our communities.”

Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison) says currently no Iowa communities have declared themselves sanctuary cities, and his bill would maintain the status quo.

holt.JPG
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison)

“The majority of immigrants who came here illegally just came here for a better life,” Holt said.  “But there are also immigrants who came here illegally with violent criminal pasts and by their very definition a sanctuary city provides a safe haven for these individuals.”

Holt cited instances of violent crimes elsewhere in the country perpetrated by undocumented immigrants who should have been deported.

Holt said Iowa City has “moved in the direction” of being a sanctuary city with its ordinance preventing the use of local resources to enforce immigration laws.

"You're right, we have poor immigration policy, but at the same time we're not going to make this situation any better by local municipalities continuing to thumb their nose at the federal government," said Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Columbia).

But Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly told legislators that doesn't mean federal immigration officials are prevented from picking up suspects who are under arrest in Iowa City.

t-shirt.JPG
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
Protester t-shirt at statehouse hearing

"We just had it happen last week," Matherly says. "A person was lodged in the jail because of us and the next day ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) picked them up.”

Immigrant advocates and legal experts also spoke out against the bill.

"Relationships between local police and immigrants who are already terrified and terrorized are going to be broken," said high school student Alexa Rodriguez.

“We have significant concerns about constitutionality,” said Jim Carney with the Iowa Bar Association.

Are we a solution looking for a problem? -Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton)

The bill has already passed the Senate. It cleared a GOP-dominated House panel and will be considered next by the House Public Safety Committee.

Rep. Wes Breckinridge (D-Newton) declined to sign the subcommittee report.

“Are we a solution looking for a problem?” asked Breckinridge, an officer in the Newton Police Department.