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The governor of Iowa signs a bill granting the state the power to detain and expel some immigrants



Des Moines, Iowa – A bill that was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds on Wednesday makes it a state criminal for someone who has been previously denied entry into the country or removed from it to be in Iowa.

The law, which goes into effect on July 1, has increased fear among immigrant populations in Iowa and raised concerns about how law enforcement and legal professionals would implement it. Part of a Texas statute that is presently being challenged by a judge is mirrored in it.
Republican leaders have accused President Joe Biden of failing to enforce federal immigration law in Iowa and across the nation. As a result, Republican governors have sent military to Texas and state legislators have proposed a range of state-level initiatives.

“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 he is unwilling to do: enforce immigration laws already on the books.”

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert informed The Associated Press via email in March that the department’s efforts to keep the community safe are independent of an individual’s legal status, following the Legislature’s passage of the measure. According to him, the force is “not equipped, funded, or staffed” to handle duties that belong to the federal government.

“Simply stated, not only do we not have the resources to assume this additional task, we don’t even have the ability to perform this function,” Wingert said.

In a March email, Linn County deputy sheriff and Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association president Shawn Ireland stated that law enforcement personnel would need to confer with county attorneys regarding implementation and enforcement.

Similar to the Texas bill, the Iowa proposal may result in criminal charges for individuals who have deportation orders pending or who have been previously removed from the country or refused entry. Once in detention, immigrants faced the option of facing charges or complying with a judge’s order to leave the country.

The judge’s order must specify the mode of departure from the United States as well as the law enforcement official or Iowa agency responsible for tracking the migrants’ whereabouts. If they don’t leave, they risk being arrested again and facing more serious crimes.

The U.S. Department of Justice challenged the Texas law, arguing that it interferes with the federal government’s immigration power, which has caused it to become stuck in court.

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

To try to address people’s inquiries, Iowa’s immigrant community organizations are setting up informational sessions and resources in the interim. Along with in-person discussions, they are also requesting official statements from the county and local police enforcement authorities.

At one 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 Iowa police ask me about my immigration status?” And: “What happens if I’m racially profiled?”