Iowa Law Enforcement Condemns GOP “Sanctuary Cities” Bill

Why do Iowa law enforcement leaders oppose the Iowa Republicans’ anti-immigrant bill? The bill, SF481 (the so-called sanctuary bill), threatens to withhold state funds from cities and counties that they claim do not cooperate with federal immigration agents in holding undocumented immigrants for potential deportation. This bill has passed the Senate and may be up for debate in the full house today.

The Republicans pushing this bill (Senator Julian Garrett, R-Indianola and Representative Steve Holt, R-Denison) claim that local Iowa law enforcement isn’t fulfilling their duties in enforcing federal immigration laws.

“I believe most Iowa law enforcement agencies do fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but some do not,” said Garrett.

Iowa’s local law enforcement agencies understand their legal responsibilities and believe they are performing exactly as they should. It’s agreed that immigration is a responsibility of federal law enforcement. Garrett and Holt don’t want to admit that they are demanding local law enforcement to assume federal responsibilities. Here is a sample of statements from a number of Iowa law enforcement agencies in opposition to the Republican anti-immigrant bill.

Polk County Sheriff, Bill McCarthy explained and clarified many of the immigration issues in an Op-Ed in the Des Moines Register this past week. He provided a comprehensive description of immigration responsibilities from the perspective of a local Iowa law enforcement leader.

“There are no sanctuary cities in Iowa. Let me say it again – there are no sanctuary cities in Iowa,” McCarthy emphasized. “The fact is that being an undocumented person in our state is not a criminal offense as defined in the Iowa Code. The proponents of this bill claim this is a technicality, but it is a fact.”

“The bill, SF481, would violate this long established national/local constitutional division of powers by allowing ICE agents to essentially federalize a local law officer’s powers every time ICE makes a request to detain an individual,” said McCarthy. “Many leaders of law enforcement agencies in our state have repeatedly spoken about the importance of law enforcement officers establishing trust and communication within communities of diverse cultures. Mixing roles between local police/deputies and ICE works against that trust.”

“To legislatively add to local law enforcement and detention officers the duties of an ICE agent – whose job requires the breaking up of families, the separation of children from their parents, and the human suffering that accompanies these acts – is not why law enforcement exists at the local level,” said McCarthy.

Storm Lake Public Safety Director Mark Prosser is one of 60 sheriffs in the bipartisan Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force. The group advocates for “common sense immigration reform,” Prosser said, “including keeping local cops out of immigration enforcement.”

“This is not going to fix something that is broken, it will break something that is working…I joined my brother police chiefs in opposing this bill. Our association opposed it last year, and it still passed on to the senate. It now moved into the house this year,” Prosser said.

Sioux County sheriff Dan Altena echoed the frustration with the Republicans bill. “We can’t legally hold someone in jail unless they’ve committed a crime,” Altena said. “What these groups don’t understand is that just because somebody is in our country and they’re illegal, we can’t just arrest them. They still have rights. I can’t hold somebody in our jail unless we have probable cause that they’ve committed a crime or there’s a warrant out for their arrest.”

“I’m not aware of there being any agencies in Iowa that do not comply or work well with federal law enforcement partners,” said Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper, who also spoke against Senate File 481.

“In order for us to have a safe community, we need to be able to build relationships with everybody that lives here, and it’s not helpful if there’s a segment of our population that’s afraid to talk to the police or contact the police,” added Tupper.

Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman said the county already works with ICE and other federal agencies. “I would support and reiterate Chief Tupper’s concern that, if the community fears local law enforcement acting in the capacity of immigration agents, that we will lose the opportunity to talk to witnesses that can help us solve crime,” he said.

This is a partial list of groups opposing this GOP anti-immigrant bill:

Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association

Iowa Police Chiefs Association

Iowa State Association of Counties

Iowa Attorney General Dept. of Justice

AFSCME Iowa Council 61

Iowa State Association of County Supervisors

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund

Iowa League of Cities

Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO


by Rick Smith
Posted 3/14/18

1 Comment on "Iowa Law Enforcement Condemns GOP “Sanctuary Cities” Bill"

  • Good for them! Despite what Sen. Garrett and Rep. Holt proclaim about unfulfilled duties, it is NOT the duty of local and state constabulary to enforce Federal law. That’s why we have Federal agencies, like the FBI, Federal Marshals, and the (almost para-legal) ICE. If they are having trouble performing their duties, then, perhaps, in this case, the problem isn’t as severe as they claim.

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