I read with interest the essay by Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper and Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser opposing Senate File 481 that prohibits “sanctuary cities.” (A more descriptive term would be sanctuary cities or counties.)
They make two arguments that contradict each other. On the one hand they claim that, “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.”
On the other hand, they claim that “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.”
So, on the one hand they claim that the system is already in place and working fine, so the bill would change nothing. On the other hand, they don’t have the training or time to do what the bill would require them to do. Which is it?
I believe most Iowa law enforcement agencies do fully cooperate with ICE, but some do not. This bill would require all to cooperate with ICE. It would also head off any temptation by any law enforcement officials in the future to refuse to cooperate with ICE. This kind of contradictory and confusing statements from officials such as these gentlemen make it all the more compelling to pass a law that makes their duty clear. You could not get an accurate understanding of what the bill actually requires, by listening to, or reading the statements made by opponents of the bill.
Senate file 481 imposes a simple and clear responsibility on local law enforcement: “A law enforcement agency in this state that has custody of a person subject to an immigration detainer request issued by United States immigration and customs enforcement shall fully comply with any instruction made in the detainer request and in any other legal document provided by a federal agency.”
Immigrants who are in the country legally have nothing to fear from this bill. They are not affected. Victims of crime and witnesses to a crime are exempted. The only people covered by the bill are people who are suspected of, or who have already been convicted of committing a crime, and who are in custody because of that. You might think that local authorities would like to have some of their criminals deported. That would obviously make their communities safer.