Iowa Passes Anti-Sanctuary Bill: Expected to Become Law
By Shari Rendall | April 5, 2018
The Iowa legislature passed anti-sanctuary legislation with only two weeks remaining in its legislative session. The bill passed primarily along party-line votes. It now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ and she has indicated she will sign it.
Iowa Senate File (SF) 481 was introduced in March 2017. The Iowa Senate quickly passed it a month later. However, it languished in the House, and the House adjourned before any action was taken. Unlike the 2017 legislative session, SF 481 steadily progressed through the House in 2018, with a subcommittee hearing in January and a full committee hearing in March.
In brief, the bill bans sanctuary cities and counties by:
- Requiring law enforcement agencies to honor immigration detainers;
- Requiring sentenced inmates with detainers to serve the last portion of their state sentence in federal custody, of up to seven days, in order to seamlessly transfer custody;
- Forbidding local governments from adopting policies that prohibit or even “discourage” asking about immigration status, maintaining or sharing information with federal authorities, assisting or cooperating with immigration enforcement, or allowing federal officials access to their facilities or people in their custody;
- Allowing anyone to file a complaint with the state Attorney General that a local government or agency is violating the bill’s provisions;
- Requiring the Attorney General to file suit after determining a local government is in violation and giving them 40 days’ notice in which to change their policy; and
- Withholding state funds from local governments if a court finds they intentionally violated the bill’s terms, with a chance to have funding reinstated after a year if the local government proves it is complying.
Legislators highlighted the need for anti-sanctuary legislation by remembering Sarah Root, the 21 year-old killed by an illegal alien drunk driver who was streetcar racing. “This legislation is about the rule of law and safety of all people, citizens and immigrants alike,” said Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison). Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Chariton) echoed this sentiment alluding to the fact that this issue is a direct result of municipalities deciding “to thumb their nose at the rule of law.” Iowa has more than a dozen counties that refuse to honor immigration detainers, as well as least four cities that go even further: Ames, Des Moines, Iowa City, and Windsor Heights.
As expected, opponents said this legislation makes Iowa communities less safe and causes immigrants to distrust law enforcement. Despite this rhetoric, there is no evidence that law enforcement cooperation with Immigration Custom Enforcement has a chilling effect on the comfort of immigrants to report crimes. Moreover, most illegal aliens don’t cooperate with police—even in sanctuary cities—because the vast majority come from countries where law enforcement is either corrupt or serves as a tool of state oppression.
The bill passed the House on April 3rd by a vote of 55 to 45, with one Democrat voting in favor and five Republicans opposing. The Senate then passed the amended bill on April 4th by a party-line vote of 28 to 18, with the chamber’s one Independent joining the Democrats to vote no.