It’s Not Just King: Anti-Immigrant Feelings Run Deep In Iowa GOP

Many wonder how Iowa Republicans can tolerate Congressman Steve King’s racist anti-immigrant rants. While most of the GOP doesn’t mimic King and many meekly claim they don’t agree with him, they fail to condemn or distance themselves. Iowa Republicans understand that appearing unyielding on immigration plays well to many in their party. Both Governor Reynolds’ appointment of King as her campaign co-chair and the Iowa Senate Republicans’ sanctuary bill are implicit acceptance of anti-immigrant policies. While they may not join King in his embrace of the nationalist alt-right, they will willingly play the anti-immigrant card as electoral insurance when necessary.

Governor Reynolds’ appointment of Congressman King as one of her campaign co-chairs is a signal to the Republican base that she is willing to be complicit in King’s anti-immigrant crusade. Reynolds is not about to alienate King voters by rejecting him. Passing up an opportunity to display a “Profiles in Courage” moment, Reynolds instead endorsed King as a full partner in her campaign.

“I’m not going to agree with everything that they (her co-chairs) have to say, and I can certainly make it known when I don’t agree with a comment that they make. But I also want to be able to work with them on really important issues for Iowa,” Reynolds said.

Similarly, the Republicans in the Iowa Senate are appealing to anti-immigrant Republicans by manufacturing fear about Iowa sanctuary communities.

Last year’s sanctuary bill, SF481, spearheaded by Republican Julian Garrett of Indianola, is clearly aimed at punishing and frightening immigrants. His legislation would cut off state funds to local communities that were perceived to have refused to comply with the Republican version of immigration law.

The Republican-controlled House is planning to introduce similar legislation led by Republican Representative Steve Holt of Denison. These two Republicans have jumped onto the Trump anti-immigrant bandwagon. Their proposal mirrors Trump’s attempt to cut off federal funding for so called “sanctuary cities.” Their bill is politically motivated to appeal to Republicans’ immigrant anxiety. They understand that there is an ugly anti-immigrant intolerance running through the Republican Party. Republicans know immigrant bashing appeals to a small but crucial part of their voter base. Every Republican understands that appearing too compassionate or too accepting of immigration may put their reelection in jeopardy. They fear a backlash from their base if they get painted with the amnesty label.

Several federal court decisions have ruled against the Trump funding cut-off policy by declaring it unconstitutional. Apparently, Garrett and Holt plan to pursue implementing unconstitutional legislation in Iowa regardless of the judicial consequences. Not only is this likely to be declared unconstitutional, it will weaken community safety and consume scarce local law enforcement resources.

Garrett justifies his misguided legislation by making an unfounded assertion. He claims some Iowa cities and counties aren’t cooperating with federal immigration officials and that they are, “harboring immigrant criminals.” Garrett offers no proof for his outrageous assertion. It’s a shameful insult to suggest Iowa’s law enforcement agencies are violating their duties by refusing to prosecute criminal behavior.

A Des Moines Register editorial yesterday explains how the Republican bill would actually punish Iowa law enforcement. It would require local law enforcement to assume federal immigration responsibilities.  Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper explained the effect this bill would have on his city. Tupper said his department works with federal authorities to locate criminals and security threats, but “our police department does not have the funding or personnel to carry out enforcement actions for which federal authorities are best equipped.”

The Republicans’ bill is opposed by numerous law enforcement groups, including the Iowa Police Chiefs Association and the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association. Republicans Garrett and Holt are pushing a bill that Iowa law enforcement professionals oppose and will be harmed by its passage.

There is only one logical explanation for all these Republicans nonsensical immigration positons. All these Republicans understand that Trump successfully used anti-immigrant rhetoric to win the presidency. Nate Silver’s premier polling group FiveThirtyEight says that Trump won the presidency by appealing to a significant portion of the Republicans’ base that fears and in some cases, hates immigrants.

Trump effectively used the fear of immigrants and the browning of America to energize his base. He used immigrants as his political punching bag in an attempt to scare both the general public and fire-up his base. He wants the public to believe all immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants are taking our jobs and present a threat to public safety and our national security.

Iowa Republicans’ Reynolds, Garrett and Holt should be ashamed of their association with this ugly anti-immigrant agenda. Their actions and behavior is a betrayal of Iowa’s long historical record of welcoming immigrants and celebrating our diversity.


by Rick Smith
Posted 12/21/17

7 Comments on "It’s Not Just King: Anti-Immigrant Feelings Run Deep In Iowa GOP"

  • Almost anyone would be an improvement over Steve King. One has to wonder where & how did this member of our Legislator develop this king of anti-human attitude. Why does North-West Iowa keep voting for this poor excuse of a human being?

  • The anti-immigrant policies of King, Reynolds and the Iowa GOP are spreading like an aggressive cancer and will have long-term consequences for our state. This attitude of bigotry and intolerance will result in poor population growth and decreased revenue for Iowa. Also look for the continued brain drain of young professionals from our non-progressive state.

  • Basically I see in the year 2017 an entire Republican party anti-everything that scares them to death. One word–change. However the time has come to make them accountable for the harm they show their own constituent’s. Hopefully in 2018 we will see a renewal of courage at the ballot box because the very future financially for Iowa depends on it.

  • Why is it so hard to see the difference between legal and illegal immigration? Maybe by conveniently ignoring the difference, people who are against illegal immigration but welcome legal immigrants can be portrayed as bigots and intolerant. With all of the name calling on here it is not difficult to see who are the intolerant ones.

  • Speak out against bigots and you run the risk of getting quietly turned out at primary time for someone who will at least tolerate bigotry.

    Bigotry is probably the only stance on immigration that gives the rural voter any security – after all, if you just say “let’s keep immigration legal,” it doesn’t sound personal. You may cave in office. You need to make voters feel it IS personal – that you really don’t respect Those People.

  • Warren county Senator Julian Garrett can be reached for comments by phone 515-281-3371 or email at I’m not happy about this! Seems GOP is always party before the people of Iowa. The simplest way out of this to vote blue in 2018.

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