Iowa’s governor signs a law giving the state the power to arrest and deport migrants

(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Iowa’s governor signs a law giving the state the power to arrest and deport migrants

Immigration and the border

Hannah Foxglove

April 10, 2024

A bill signed by the government. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday made it a state crime for someone to be in Iowa if they had previously been denied entry or removed from the United States.

It will be a state crime for someone to be in Iowa if they have previously been denied entry into the United States or removed from the United States under a bill signed by the government. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday.

The law, which takes effect July 1, has raised concerns among Iowa’s immigrant communities and raised questions among legal experts and law enforcement about how it will be enforced. It mirrors part of a Texas law currently blocked in court.

In Iowa and across the country, Republican leaders have accused President Biden of neglecting his responsibilities in enforcing federal immigration law, leading Republican governors to deploy troops to Texas and the Legislature to adopt a variety of strategies at the state level has proposed.

The Biden administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, putting the protection and safety of Iowans at risk, Reynolds said in a statement after signing the bill. This bill gives Iowa law enforcement the power to do what it doesn’t want to do: enforce immigration laws that are already on the books.

Migrants in Iowa are wondering whether to leave behind a bill that could see some arrested and deported

After the Legislature passed the bill, Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert told the Associated Press in an email in March that immigration status plays no role in the department’s work to keep the community safe. He said the force is not equipped, funded or staffed to take on responsibilities that fall to the federal government.

Simply put, not only do we not have the resources to take on this additional task, we don’t even have the ability to perform this function, Wingert said.

Shawn Ireland, president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Assn. and a deputy sheriff in Linn County, also said in a March email that law enforcement should consult with county attorneys for guidance on implementation and enforcement.

The Iowa legislation, like the Texas law, could bring criminal charges against people who have pending deportation orders or who have previously been removed from the US or denied entry into the US. Once in custody, migrants can either comply with a judge’s order to leave the US or face prosecution.

The judge’s order must identify the transportation method for leaving the U.S. and a law enforcement officer or an Iowa agency to monitor migrants’ departure. Those who do not leave could be rearrested under more serious charges.

How Texas’ plans to arrest migrants for illegal entry would work if put into effect

The Texas law is being held up in court after a challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice, which says it conflicts with the federal government’s immigration enforcement agency.

The Iowa bill faces the same implementation and enforcement challenges as the Texas law, as deportation is a complicated, expensive and often dangerous federal process, said immigration law expert Huyen Pham of the Texas A&M School of Law.

In the meantime, Iowa’s immigrant community groups are organizing informational meetings and materials to try to answer people’s questions. They are also asking local and state law enforcement agencies for official statements and face-to-face meetings.

At a community meeting in Des Moines, 80 people gathered and asked questions in Spanish, including: Should I leave Iowa?

Others asked: Is it safe to call the police? Can the Iowa Police ask me about my immigration status? And: What happens if I am racially profiled?

Fingerhut writes for the Associated Press.


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