Iowa passes state-enforced undocumented immigration bill News
Iqkotze, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Iowa passes state-enforced undocumented immigration bill

Iowa lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that would make it a crime to enter the state after being deported or denied entry into the US. The passage puts the midwestern state on track to join Texas in enforcing state immigration laws that operate independently of the federal immigration system, meaning they are not directly tied to or governed by federal immigration policies.

Under the bill, Senate File 2340, if someone was previously deported from or denied entry into the US, entering Iowa would be considered a misdemeanor offense. In some instances, such as having prior convictions, this state crime could escalate to a felony.

The passage of this bill aligns Iowa with Texas, which has also been enforcing immigration laws outside the federal system. Texas’ recent law allows state authorities to arrest unauthorized immigrants and order them to leave the country or face prison time. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, clearly stated her intention to sign the bill. She believes that the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration laws compromises the nation’s sovereignty and safety. She has sent the National Guard from Iowa to assist in Texas Governor Abbott’s state immigration enforcement. 

Though vastly outnumbered in the legislature, leading Iowa Democrats opposed the measure. The local Iowa Capital Dispatch quoted Senator Janice Weiner (D) as saying, “This bill is a political stunt and a false promise that doesn’t contain the needed resources. … It’s a gotcha bill. But I have great news: There’s a solution out there, colleagues; a tough bipartisan compromise bill was hammered out in the US Senate.”  Weiner encouraged her constituents to call their Washington representatives to pass the long-debated federal immigration legislation.

KCAU news recorded the Democrats’ response during the legislative debate, which focused on the fact that the bill does not protect victims of human traffickers, as the victims would not be given the services afforded by the federal Violence Against Women Act. Also, the Democrats argued that the logistics of sending the person back to the country of origin would prove costly and challenging for local law enforcement. Furthermore, they emphasized that Iowa is not a border state and is closer to Canada than it is to Mexico. The bill underscores the complex political implications of addressing undocumented immigration on a state level, especially far inland.

If Governor Reynolds signs the bill into law, it will go into effect on July 1, 2024.