Iowa Latinos rally to oppose new ‘unjust’ law targeting their community

Iowa Latinos and other immigration advocates rally outside of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Wednesday, May 2. Photo by Ty Rushing

By Ty Rushing

May 2, 2024

Iowa’s new anti-immigrant law is based on a Texas law that some argue is unconstitutional

Jose Alvarado wasn’t shocked when Republicans in the Iowa Legislature passed a bill targeting Iowa’s immigrant community, or when Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know the governor doesn’t have a good feeling about immigrants,” said Alvarado, the founder and president of Latinx Immigrants of Iowa.

The nonprofit leader and community organizer shared those thoughts with Starting Line during a Wednesday evening rally outside of the Iowa Capitol, one of several held simultaneously around the state that day in response to SF 2340. The other rallies were in Davenport, Iowa City, and Waterloo.

The new law makes illegal immigration a state crime in addition to being a federal crime—similar to a Texas law currently being litigated in the courts—and turns Iowa law enforcement agencies into quasi-immigration offices.

SF 2340 charges undocumented migrants found in Iowa with an aggravated misdemeanor if they have been previously denied entry into the United States, or excluded, deported, or removed from the country.

The charge becomes a felony if the undocumented migrant’s prior removal includes a conviction for drugs and/or crimes against a person. SF 2340 also allows Iowa judges to order the deportation of undocumented migrants and gives law enforcement agencies the authority to transfer undocumented migrants to the nearest US port of entry.

Our country too

Alvarado said SF 2340 is a direct attack on families.

“The most important thing is to keep our family, so taking them apart is really hurting us,” he said. “We have a lot of families that are mixed families with documented and undocumented, that’s why we are here.”

Iowa Latinos rally to oppose new ‘unjust’ law targeting their community

At the Des Moines rally to oppose a new law some have deemed anti-immigrant, Alison De Luna,18, carried a homemade sign that read “I Should Be Worried About College !NOT! SF2340.” Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

At the Des Moines rally, Alison De Luna, 18, carried a homemade sign that read “I Should Be Worried About College !NOT! SF2340” as she and dozens of other Latinos and advocates stood outside the Iowa Capitol in the rain as speakers shared their stories in Spanish.

“We don’t think that this is justified, we don’t think this is fair to our community—not just the Latino community—but every single community here in Des Moines and Iowa,” said De Luna, a senior at Hoover High School and Central Academy, both in Des Moines.

De Luna said this bill has dampened her excitement about going to college. She plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames to study electrical engineering in the fall.

“The only thing on my mind right now is the fear for my friends, community members, my neighbors,” De Luna said. “I’m just terrified what’s going to happen because of this legislation.”

Guadalupe Suarez, who has been in Iowa for more than 20 years, came to the Des Moines rally to show support and encourage others not to be scared. Through a translator, she told Starting Line immigrants deserve to be here and this is their country too because they work hard to support it.

On an annual basis, immigrant households in Iowa contribute $630.6 million in state and local taxes and $1.1 billion in federal taxes, according to the American Immigration Council. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants contribute $50.5 million in state and local taxes and $62.8 million in federal while not being able to benefit from most of the services they pay into.

Will it be enforced?

Reynolds signed the bill into law on April 10. She explained why in a statement.

“The Biden Administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, putting the protection and safety of Iowans at risk,” Reynolds said. “Those who come into our country illegally have broken the law, yet Biden refuses to deport them. This bill gives Iowa law enforcement the power to do what he is unwilling to do: enforce immigration laws already on the books.”

Multiple Iowa law enforcement agencies have said they don’t have the resources to take on additional immigration duties. At Wednesday’s rally at Lincoln Park in Waterloo, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson told the crowd he does not plan to enforce it.

Thompson, a Democrat, said the new law would try to force his deputies to “stereotype constituents” and “racially profile random motorists or passersby.” He said his deputies would not be doing that.

“The law is not only political, but it’s also unenforceable as it’s written,” Thompson said, to cheers from the crowd. “We’ve got more important issues to deal with.”

He added that the amount of crimes committed by immigrants was “so small and insignificant that it’s not even worthy of note.”

“But that simply doesn’t fit into the governor’s narrative,” Thompson said.


Starting Line Community Editor Amie Rivers contributed to this story.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.



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