Immigration bill on its way to governor for signature

T-R FILE PHOTO Immigration has been a topic of debate for numerous years in the Iowa Capitol. In 2018, Immigration Allies of Marshalltown member Maria Gonzalez held a banner stating the legality of all people in Iowa.

Legislators in the Iowa House left Senate File 2340 (SF2340) in “unfinished business” less than a week before passing it on a 64-30 vote.

Under the bill, if a person is found to be in Iowa illegally, after prior deportation or entry denial, SF2340 makes it a state Class C or Class D felony. Last week, Rep. Sue Cahill (D-Marshalltown) said the bill was basically in limbo until legislators decided to return to it, which was Tuesday. Cahill voted against the bill. House District 51 Rep. Dave Deyoe (R-Nevada) and House District 53 Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) were in favor.

Deyoe said he voted the way he did because he thought the bill was set up reasonably.

“I think it deals with a problem we have,” he said. “We are overrun with illegal aliens, and we are seeing impacts of it in Iowa. I think it’s a major problem.”

One aspect Deyoe likes is that it gives law enforcement the ability to hold arrested immigrants who they feel are dangerous for a longer period of time until deportation can occur. He stressed that it would not apply to anyone pulled over for minor or traffic violations but for undocumented people who have committed crimes which would result in arrest.

“They have to be in the system,” Deyoe said. “Law enforcement are aware of who they are. They’ve been here, were deported and now they’re back.”

The bill is now on the way to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her signature. Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper said it sounds like Reynolds will sign, but it will make the job of law enforcement far more difficult.

Tupper found out about the passage of SF2340 Wednesday morning and said the bill is “an unfunded mandate” forced on local governments by the state of Iowa.

“It’s a disappointment,” he said. “This is a really complicated and complex problem. I think this legislation is the type that diminishes public safety as opposed to helping local law enforcement.”

Many logistical aspects of the bill remain uncertain, and they are a big concern for Tupper and Marshall County Sheriff Joel Phillips. For example, if the court finds a person guilty of being in the country illegally, local law enforcement can take that person to Iowa’s port of entry — Des Moines — and return them to his or her country of origin.

When the T-R previously interviewed Marshall County Attorney Jordan Gaffney about SF2340, he said it was not clear if transportation would have to occur immediately or if law enforcement would be able to make weekly or monthly trips. When transportation occurs would depend on the order of the court, Gaffney said.

Phillips was surprised at how quickly the bill moved and is concerned with the financial burdens it places on law enforcement as well as the effects it will have on the jail and on the court system. The people facing the charges will need to be housed somewhere until they can get through court.

“There are a lot of questions I have,” he said. “Individuals going through court, that doesn’t happen overnight. It can take several months, and there is a court case backlog.”

Marshalltown City Councilor Mike Ladehoff worries about the extra duties now placed on the community’s police force. He said they already do not have enough officers, a problem for numerous law enforcement agencies across the country.

“Now more duties are thrown on them over a federal issue, which is ridiculous,” Ladehoff said. “The police don’t go after you if you don’t pay your income taxes. That’s a federal issue, and so is immigration. To turn it into a state issue is wrong. This smacks of politics during an election year.”

Tupper said local law enforcement might have to figure logistics out, but he is not sure how.

“I don’t think the legislators care,” he said. “We don’t have the resources or the training. I don’t have enough cops to make this work. I don’t know how it will work.”

He said he wants state officials to know the bill will only diminish public safety, as it only gives people another reason to fear law enforcement. That fear is something the police department has worked very hard to overcome and help residents feel safe.

SF2340, in Tupper’s opinion, does not enhance the good relations the MPD has created with all communities in Marshalltown, one of the most diverse cities in Iowa. That relationship is also a big concern for Ladehoff.

“We have made so much progress as a community, getting everyone together,” he said. “The police have worked so hard in gaining the trust of immigrants, and I worry this will unravel that progress. I am so proud of the new families in Marshalltown. I hope this doesn’t target them or raise racist voices. We’ve got to get past that.”

La Carreta Mexican Grill Owner Alfonso Medina agreed that SF2340 will only make the job of law enforcement harder, erode the community’s trust in the police department and decrease calls for help. In order for Iowa to thrive, he said the state must be welcoming and people should be brought together, not further divided.

“Iowans are those who are here working, going to school, contributing to the economy and well-being of the state,” Medina said. “An Iowan can come from wherever they want. If your family is here, your job is here, your dreams are here, you’re an Iowan in my book.”

Immigration is a hotly debated topic which rears its head during every presidential cycle, Tupper said. He compared it to a frequent “Peanuts” cartoon scenario in which Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to kick. Every time, Lucy pulls the football away as Charlie kicks, causing him to fall on his back.

“The law enforcement and communities are Charlie Brown,” Tupper said.

Even with the unknowns surrounding SF2340, the chief said the police department will continue to uphold the law.

“We support everyone who calls Marshalltown home, and the Marshalltown Police Department remains committed to keeping this community safe,” Tupper said. “We are here to help, regardless of your status.”

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 ext. 210 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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