Posted on January 30, 2018

Iowa Considers Expansive Immigration Enforcement Bill

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, January 29, 2018

Iowa has jumped into the national debate over immigration with an expansive enforcement bill that would require local governments to comply with federal immigration agents or risk losing state funds.

The measure, scheduled for at least one vote this week in the Republican-controlled Legislature, would force law enforcement to hold a jailed person for possible deportation if requested by federal agents. The proposal has been framed as a ban on so-called sanctuary cities, a catch-all label for jurisdictions that limit local involvement in federal immigration enforcement.

Iowa has no sanctuary cities, though some communities have related guidelines.


The bill would prohibit policies that don’t allow local authorities to:

Question the immigration status of people under lawful detention or arrest.

Assist federal immigration agents with arrests.

Use any Iowa jail as part of federal agents’ work.

Local governments that intentionally violate provisions would be denied state funding.


Roughly 40,000 people in Iowa were in the country illegally in 2014, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

Alexa Rodriguez, a community organizer in the Des Moines area, said the bill would make immigrants who are fearful of deportation less inclined to report crimes, which could hinder police investigations.


The Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association and a host of groups representing local governments are registered against the legislation. The Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group against illegal immigration, is the only organization registered in support.

Rep. Steven Holt, a Denison Republican who will be on today’s panel, noted the legislation states a person reporting a crime, including a victim, would be exempt from immigration enforcement. He said the argument masks a bigger problem.