‘Sanctuary City’ bill would make our communities less safe
Iowa House Republicans have advanced a bill that would outlaw “sanctuary cities” and withhold state funds for any city or county that doesn’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
We speak as two police chiefs — from Storm Lake and Marshalltown — who make Iowans’ safety our No. 1 priority. That’s why we both oppose SF 481 and spoke out against the bill.
The bill is meant to ensure community safety, but it would strain relationships with the communities we serve and protect.
We speak as leaders with 62 combined years of law enforcement experience. As such, we know how precious energy and resources are for our state’s police departments. Iowa’s proposed crackdown on sanctuary cities is a waste of resources, because it addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. There are no sanctuary cities in Iowa. Our state’s local law enforcement already works with federal authorities on criminal investigations. The bill requires police to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of arrests of illegal immigrants, and that system is already in place and automated. In the majority of cases, ICE doesn’t respond to local arrests.
Beyond the bill’s inefficiency, it introduces a dangerous infringement on local control of local issues. It legislates policy in an arena where no other policy is legislated, such as use of force, proper equipment, and standards of conduct. It asks local law enforcement to address an issue that is best left to federal authorities. Creating and enforcing immigration laws is the purview of our federal partners. Asking local and state law enforcement to enforce immigration laws puts a strain on already strapped police units. We simply don’t have the training or time to enforce federal immigration policy.
Most significant, the proposed bill would diminish the trust that keeps our cities safe in the first place. We depend on residents, including immigrants, to come to us when they see something suspicious or potentially criminal. If they hear of a looming “crackdown” that could affect their families and friends, they are less likely to come to us to report and prevent actual crimes. Our state’s growing immigrant population — about 150,000 individuals, or 5 percent of Iowa residents — will be confused and scared by this bill. We believe SF 481 would undo all the relational trust and goodwill we have built over many years.
We want Iowa residents to trust us and cooperate with us so that all of our communities are safer. Legislation like this drives hard-working, law-abiding immigrants back into the shadows.
Instead of a shortsighted and counterproductive bill like SF 481, we encourage our federal lawmakers to continue seeking comprehensive immigration reform. We urge leaders of both political parties to create a broad, bipartisan coalition and act urgently to pass better immigration laws. Doing so will strengthen the economy, promote strong national borders, and allow immigrants to become participants in creating safety and security in all of our communities.
Iowa Senate leaders should focus on more effective legislation that keeps all Iowans truly safe. That is our top priority, and that is why we oppose the sanctuary cities bill.
Michael Tupper has served as Marshalltown’s chief of police since 2011. Mark Prosser has served as Storm Lake’s chief of police since 1989 and as its public safety director since 2000.