Among the 17 bills Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed Tuesday was a Republican-led bill banning so-called sanctuary cities, a controversial non-legal term describing localities where law enforcement authorities can choose not to turn over immigrants for federal deportation proceedings.
The law, which takes effect by January 1, 2019, will revoke state funding from “sanctuary cities,” now requiring police to comply with federal requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants in police custody for potential deportation proceedings. Iowa does not have any sanctuary cities. Supporters insist criminal immigrants could take “sanctuary” in immigrant-friendly places when local law enforcement officials aren’t helping the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency enforce federal immigration law. Critics of the bill say that it could lead to racial profiling.
The legislation received criticism from a variety of organizations including pro-immigration advocacy groups. Rita Bettis, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa legal director, wrote a statement criticizing the law and said that it could violate an individual’s constitutional rights.
“Let’s be clear. It violates a person’s constitutional rights for lowa law enforcement to hold them without a warrant or probable cause of a crime,” Bettis said in a statement. “But that is what ICE detainer requests ask Iowa law enforcement to do. That’s because ICE “detainer requests” are exactly that: an ask of local law enforcement to hold a person without a warrant or probable cause. As a result of this, we are deeply concerned about the passage of S.F.481 and will strive to defend the constitutional rights of Iowans against unlawful detentions.”
Iowa City has a policy that says the city “will not commit local resources to enforcing federal immigration law,” according to the Des Moines Register, but “officials have stopped short of identifying themselves as hosting a sanctuary community.”
Sanctuary cities received national attention in 2015 when an undocumented immigrant fatally killed a woman on a San Francisco pier. That undocumented immigrant — who had previously been deported five times and was released by the local San Francisco police but not turned over to federal authorities for deportation — fired the gun that killed her. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers have since used the death of Kate Steinle to support tough immigration policies that would force local law enforcement departments to turn over undocumented immigrants for potential deportation proceedings. The immigrant was later deemed “not guilty” after the defense argued that the bullet ricocheted before hitting Steinle, meaning it was likely an unintentional killing.