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