Department of Justice says Iowa immigration law violates US Constitution

An Iowa family during the May 1 rally in Des Moines to protest SF 2340, Iowa's new immigration law whose fate could be decided in federal court. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Ty Rushing

May 3, 2024

If Iowa doesn’t suspend the enforcement of its new immigration law by May 7, the state could face a federal lawsuit, according to the Des Moines Register.

The Register obtained a letter from the US Department of Justice sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds and Attorney General Brenna Bird warning them that “SF 2340 is preempted by federal law and violates the United States Constitution.”

The letter also accuses Iowa of creating a “separate state immigration scheme,” and says that SF 2340 violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, and conflicts with various laws that allow migrants to seek asylum.

SF 2340 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.

The law 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.

In statements to the Register, Reynolds and Bird defended the necessity of the law. They each blamed the Biden administration and tried to spin the law as a safety measure to protect Iowans while implying that immigrants are dangerous.

Our message to Biden is this: Iowa will not back down and stand by as our state’s safety hangs in the balance,” Bird told the Register. “If Biden refuses to stop the border invasion and keep our communities safe, Iowa will do the job for him.”

A recent NPR article noted immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than US-born residents. Earlier this week, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson shared similar sentiments while speaking out against the law and said the amount of crimes committed by immigrants was “so small and insignificant that it’s not even worthy of note.”

  • 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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