“Sanctuary Cities” Banned by GOP Bill

Mar 2, 2017

A bill advanced at the statehouse Thursday to outlaw the so-called sanctuary policies Iowa communities may adopt that could protect undocumented immigrants.   

Advocates for immigrants crowded into a committee room to oppose the bill.

The bill makes it illegal to adopt a policy that discourages enforcement of federal immigration laws.  

Under a Des Moines Public School resolution, immigration officials would not have access to students except through the superintendent.  

Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) questioned Des Moines School Board member Rob Barron.

“Do you recognize the federal government has jurisdiction in this area over immigration law?” Garrett asked.

Rob Barron, member, Des Moines School Board
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

“There’s no one in this room who believes the federal immigration policy is right,” Barron replied.  “What law enforcement asks for is not always appropriate or right or legal.”

“The issue is for a lot of us as long as that is the law don’t we have an obligation to respect it?”  Garrett asked.

“I absolutely respect the law but I also respect that laws are not accurate and they also have holes,” Barron said.  “When there are holes or gaps in law I would say that it is our responsibility to fill them in at the local level.”

Iowa City recently adopted a resolution preventing the use of city resources to enforce immigration law.   

The bill requires counties to comply if immigration officials ask them to maintain detention of a suspected undocumented immigrant.   

“There have been instances of people who have been released and have gone on to commit crimes,” Garrett said.

But some law enforcement officials object that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can request detention without a warrant.

According to an ACLU survey  in  2014, officials in more than two dozen Iowa counties reported they would not honor the detention request without a judge’s order.  

Under the bill, any person could file a complaint with the county attorney alleging a violation of the bill’s mandates.    Any local government violating terms of the law would risk losing state funds.

"I think this bill is misguided, not ready for prime time and I think it is full of flaws," said Sen. Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines).

The bill passed the Senate Local Government Committee on a partisan vote of 7 to 4.  

It now advances to the full Senate for debate.