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Opponents of Iowa Immigration Legislation to Rally at Iowa Capitol

Eighteen state groups including the Iowa Police Chiefs Association have registered their opposition to the so-called sanctuary cities bill. (aclu-ia-org)
Eighteen state groups including the Iowa Police Chiefs Association have registered their opposition to the so-called sanctuary cities bill. (aclu-ia-org)
March 21, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa — A rally is planned at the Iowa state Capitol tomorrow to urge lawmakers to reject legislation that would strip so-called sanctuary cities of state funds and boost enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Senate File 481 was introduced by Rep. Steve Holt in response to a resolution passed by the city council in Iowa City. The council's directive said the city police department should not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the performance of their duties, except in cases involving public safety.

Berenice Nava Romero with the American Friends Service Committee said the proposed legislation has Iowa's immigrant communities on edge.

"Our immigrant community is very scared,” Romero said. “It could make them nervous to come out and speak out against this."

The rally at the Iowa Capitol Rotunda will begin at 4 p.m.

The bill states that any person already in custody could be held indefinitely, if requested by ICE - even if that person is not being charged with a crime. The law also would give any citizen the right to file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General's Office if they believe a municipality is not fully enforcing federal immigration laws.

Romero said Iowa immigrants are being made to feel unwelcome.

"It's going to affect not just people who are undocumented, it's going effect everyone,” she said; “because if you're not white you're going to be pulled over just because your skin is brown."

Latinos and Hispanics make up 6 percent of Iowa's population.

At a hearing last week, Iowa House Republicans invited clerks who don't normally attend such meetings to occupy seats in the chamber so opponents of the bill could not testify. Romero said she believes that's because only one group supports the legislation, while 78 other groups - including the Iowa Police Chiefs Association - oppose it.

"The room was packed with people who were against it, and there was not a single soul that was like, 'Yes, I want this passed,’” Romero observed. “They are, like, determined to pass it whether the community wants it or not."

According to the Associated Press, Gov. Kim Reynolds "has indicated support" for signing the bill if it is approved by the Legislature.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA