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Iowa Bill Targeting Migrants Leaves Them Anxious As It Passes the House With Overwhelming Majority

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Iowa Bill Targeting Migrants Leaves Them Anxious As It Passes the House With Overwhelming Majority

Iowa Bill Targeting Migrants Leaves Them Anxious as It Passes the House With Overwhelming Majority

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Governor Kim Reynolds might be signing a new bill into law soon. The bill would target migrants living in the state illegally by empowering state authorities to arrest and deport some, especially those who have been previously denied admission or removed from the United States.

There is a high probability that the bill will become law, and Iowa’s migrant communities are worried. Some have been asking if they need to leave the state for somewhere else before enforcement begins.

The Iowa Bill

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The bill being considered is SF 2340, which passed the Iowa House on March 19 with 64 yes votes and 30 no votes.

The bill is described as “An act relating to illegal reentry in the state by certain aliens, prohibition on arrest in certain locations, orders to return to a foreign nation, immunity from liability and indemnification for enforcement actions, sentencing restriction, and providing penalties.”

The bill is described as “An act relating to illegal reentry in the state by certain aliens, prohibition on arrest in certain locations, orders to return to a foreign nation, immunity from liability and indemnification for enforcement actions, sentencing restriction, and providing penalties.”

Migrants Are Worried

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News of the bill has migrant communities worried. Erica Johnson, the executive director of Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, was in a meeting for migrants in a Des Moines public library when one person among the 80 attendees asked, “Should I leave Iowa?”

Johnson could not hold back her tired sigh as she answered in Spanish. “Entiendo el sentido,” which means she understood the sentiment.

Difficult Questions

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People who attended the meeting submitted written questions that were read aloud in Spanish by community organizer Fabiola Schirrmeister. Many of the questions had challenging answers.

Some asked if it would be no longer safe for them to call the police in case of an emergency, while others were concerned about Iowa police asking about immigration status. There was also a question asked about racial profiling.

Worry About Law Enforcement

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Some pro-immigrant voices have expressed concern that this law will undo the progress made between Spanish-speaking communities and law enforcement, an effort that has been sustained and built up over many years.

Schirrmeister, who is also a Spanish-language radio host, said, “It’s sad how it’s going to hurt the trust between local enforcement, pro-immigrant organizations, and the immigrant communities.”

What Des Moines Police Said

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The Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert has said that immigration status will not affect their department’s work, stressing that they only want to keep the community safe.

According to Winger, it would be “disingenuous and contradictory” to start considering immigration status when the department has been working to eliminate the bias from its police force. “I’m not interested, nor are we equipped, funded, or staffed to take on additional responsibilities that historically have never been a function of local law enforcement,” Winger said.

A National Level Issue

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People opposing SF 2340 believe that the bill is too broad and prefer that the immigration issue be tackled on the national level.

“Immigration, with all of its nuances and implications, is a national issue that demands a cohesive federal response,” Democratic representative Sami Scheetz said. Attempting to address it at the state level not only oversteps our bounds but also risks fragmenting our approach to a challenge that affects every corner of our nation.”

Dangers of Deportation 

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Additional critics of state-level deportations say the process is inherently dangerous and can be challenging to carry out effectively. Immigration law expert, Huyen Pham of Texas A&M School of Law, said the Iowa bill has problems with implementation and enforcement.

According to Pham, immigrant deportations are a “complicated, expensive, and often dangerous” federal process.

Is the Law Constitutional?

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SF 2340 is partially based on a similar law that Texas recently passed. The law has been held up in the court system over its legal standing. In a statement released by Eschucha Mi Voz Iowa, an immigrant community organization, it was tagged unconstitutional.

“We will continue to fight this unconstitutional law during rulemaking, in the courts, and on the streets,” said the news release. “We will continue to organize to stop deportations, protect refugee children, and keep families together.”

Response to the Constitutional Argument

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Supporters of the bill, like the bill’s floor manager, Representative Steve Holt, say that while previous state laws around illegal immigration did not stand, he is certain that the constitution supports such measures.

Holt pointed out that while the Texas law has been delayed in court, the Supreme Court allows it to be enforced while making its final ruling. Holt insists that states have a right to “repel invasions.”

Distinguishing Between Legal and Illegal Immigrants

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Holt believes that the bill’s critics have become confused about what it means to be a legal and illegal immigrant in America. He claims this legislation is necessary to stem the tide of what he considers an invasion of illegal migrants into the state.

“Yes, there are many in our country and our state illegally who just came here for a better life. We know that,” Holt said. “But there are also gang members, drug dealers, and terrorists who are here endangering our citizens. We know that too.”

What the Governor Said

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Iowa Governor Reynolds seems willing to sign the bill because he believes that states must step up to do what the Biden administration is failing.

“President Biden and his administration have failed to enforce our immigration laws and, in doing so, have compromised the sovereignty of our nation and the safety of its people,” Reynolds said. “States have stepped in to secure the border, preventing illegal migrants from entering our country and protecting our citizens. Americans deserve nothing less. I look forward to signing SF 2340 into law.”