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Arizona Immigration Law Highlights Different Approach Being Taken in Iowa

July 28, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa - Arizona's controversial new immigration law is set to go into effect on Thursday. The law, known as SB 1070, has spawned copycat bills in several other states, most of which have failed to advance, but it also has shone a spotlight on some state lawmakers' efforts to address problems faced by immigrant workers.

Iowa state Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) is a member of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, a group of lawmakers from 28 states working on policies they see as the antithesis of SB 1070. Bolkcom sponsored a bill he believes would strengthen workplace protections for all workers in Iowa, regardless of immigration status.

"By requiring employers initially to provide in writing to their employees, the wages and benefits they actually agreed to be paid."

He says the measure would also increase fines for withholding wages from workers, allow them access to courts for their claims to be heard, and provide protection from employer retaliation. Bolkcom thinks most Iowa employers play by the rules; the bill is meant to target those who would take advantage of any workers, including newcomers to the state.

"Essentially a zero tolerance for unscrupulous employers, and ensure that we don't become a state where people are taken advantage of — whether they're new to our state, or whether they've been long-term Iowa workers."

The bill passed the Iowa Senate in 2008, but the House didn't take it up and it was opposed by some business owners. However, Bolkcom says he has continued to revise the legislation and will reintroduce it in 2011. A competing proposal approved by the Iowa House sought to create new state identification requirements for new hires and included punitive provisions that its critics said would criminalize many immigrant workers.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - IA