Iowa Joins States Preemptively Moving Against Sanctuary Cities
New state law now bars Iowa cities and counties from being sanctuaries for fugitive illegal immigrants under legislation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). Municipal leaders who choose to ignore the new law face a cutoff of state funding.
Meanwhile, the list of California communities rebelling against their state’s sanctuary state law could grow longer by at least one before the end of April.
While President Trump has vowed to cut off federal funding for states that go sanctuary, Iowa’s new law — along with similar legislation approved in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — could hurt rogue cities that decide not to cooperate with ICE.
Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, told Inside Sources any such law passed by a state legislature could be legal and held up in court, depending on the state’s constitution.
Senate Fill 481, Republican leaders said, was inspired by Iowa City’s policy that said the municipality would not spend local money to enforce federal immigration law. It was also a response to what GOP politicians in Iowa saw happening in other cities across the country, where local leaders declared their communities to be sanctuaries.
But Republicans, like Sen. Jim Carlin of Sioux City, said the legislation was inspired by more than a political debate.
He pointed to the death of a 22-year-old woman who was killed in an Omaha traffic accident in 2016. An illegal immigrant drove the other car. He’d been drinking.
Edwin Mejia, 19, posted bond after being charged with vehicular homicide and ran. He has not been seen since.
“This is not about race. You know, frankly, it is about protecting people. It is about safety," said Carlin. “There is a place for compassion. But there is also a place for identifying criminal elements who represent a threat to the safety and security of this country."
Sen. Joe Bolkcom was one of the Iowa Democrats arguing against S.F. 481. Opponents of the legislation pointed out that none of the cities or counties in the state have declared themselves to be sanctuaries. Iowa City, even though it was held up as an example of why the legislation was needed, has never announced itself to be a sanctuary.
“Immigrants are an important part of our robust agricultural economy. So why are you guys buying into the fear-mongering?" Bolkcom said.
Iowa was not the first state to penalize city officials who decide not to help federal immigration officials, and it may not be the last.
Even though South Carolina, like Iowa, doesn’t have any sanctuary cities yet, the state Senate passed a budget amendment Thursday that would require municipalities prove to the State Tax Division, annually, that they are not ignoring federal immigration laws.