Civil rights groups sue Iowa officials to stop immigration law from going into effect News
Civil rights groups sue Iowa officials to stop immigration law from going into effect

Civil rights groups filed a complaint on Thursday against Iowa state officials to stop the state’s recently enacted immigration law from going into effect on July 1. The law makes it a crime for a foreign national to enter Iowa after having been deported from the US in the past, regardless of current immigration status.

The groups involved are the national and state ACLU chapters and the American Immigration Council. They represent the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, advising and advocating for immigrants and refugees.

In the complaint filed with the District Court of Southern Iowa, the groups claim that Iowa has exceeded its power by intruding on areas of law reserved to the federal government. They first argue that the federal government has exclusive power to regulate immigration and that Iowa’s law conflicts with federal immigration statutes. For example, a person commits no federal crime if the person was previously deported and now reenters the US on a visa. But at the same time, they commit a state crime under Iowa law, according to the complaint. Second, the groups contend that the Iowa law intrudes on the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate foreign commerce, which includes “people’s entry into the US and their movement across state borders.”

The complaint also stresses the law’s impact. Forbidden reentry is an “aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in state prison.” If the person was previously removed for committing a crime, reentry becomes a felony with a maximum sentence of ten years. The law authorizes state judges to order people to leave the US.

The ACLU announced the lawsuit on its website, stating that the law is “one of the worst, most far-reaching immigration laws ever passed in the state of Iowa.” The civil rights group also cautions that the law applies to minors and will “fuel racial profiling” and “result in the separation of families.”

Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s Republican Governor, responded with a brief statement, “As Governor, I have a responsibility to protect the citizens of Iowa. Since President Biden refuses to enforce our nation’s immigration laws – threatening the safety of our citizens – Iowa will step in.”

Just over a month ago, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against a similar law in Texas. That law criminalizes crossing the US border into Texas at an unauthorized point. However, a preliminary injunction only stops the law from going into effect while the case is pending, so the court has not yet given a final ruling.

In the meantime, more states may join Texas and Iowa in their campaign against immigration. For example, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives recently passed a law criminalizing both illegal presence in Oklahoma and reentering after deportation.