By Sarah Watson
Iowa City officials say the city will not be in danger of losing funds after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that would crack down on “sanctuary cities” on Tuesday.
The bill, Senate File 481, which supporters have said is in response to immigration policies in Iowa City as well as other cities across the country, would deny any state funding to “local entities” that discourage enforcing federal immigration policies.
The bill passed the Iowa House on April 3, 55-45, and the Iowa Senate a day later on a 28-18 vote before Reynolds signed the legislation, which will take effect July 1.
Opponents of the bill say there are no sanctuary cities in Iowa, and they suggest the bill would only stoke racial division and paint the appearance of being unfriendly to immigrants. Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, said he hadn’t heard of any obstructions with federal immigration officials during debate on the House floor.
“There is no basis for this bill,” he said.
Supporters say the legislation introduces appropriate rule of law to local immigration policies, and point to Iowa City policies as examples of discouraging enforcement of federal immigration laws.
“These are all traditional levels of cooperation that take place across the nation and across most areas of Iowa,” Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the bill’s floor manager in the House, said prior to the House vote.
In January 2017, the Iowa City City Council passed a resolution formalizing previous practices, stating it would not use local resources to enforce federal immigration law.
“The resolution includes a statement that Iowa City will comply with all state and federal laws,” City Manager Geoff Fruin said in an email to The Daily Iowan on Monday, prior to Reynolds signing the legislation. “Thus we will comply with SF481 if it is signed into law and will not be at risk of losing any state funds.”
Iowa City is expected to receive $2.62 million in state funds and grants for fiscal 2019, according to its proposed budget. State funds could be renewed after 90 days if the local entity is found to be in violation of the law.
Local entities are required to update their immigration policies to comply with state laws no later than Jan. 1, 2019. Fruin said Iowa City would update its policies, but did not anticipate “significant changes to [its] daily law-enforcement operations.”
In March 2017, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors issued a joint statement with Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek saying the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t honor voluntary detainment requests or assist in federal immigration raids.
The bill would require local entities to comply with federal detainment requests as long as there are both written and oral requests from federal immigration officials.
A voluntary detainer request is a document federal immigration officials may use to ask local law enforcement to hold a suspected unauthorized immigrant for up to 48 hours to give federal immigration officials time to take the immigrant into custody.
The bill also prohibits any discrimination based on race, skin color, language spoken, or national origin.
City Councilor Mazahir Salih, an Eastern Iowa Center for Worker Justice organizer, said she thinks the legislation will deter legal or unauthorized immigrants from living in Iowa City and cooperating with law enforcement. Salih also said her comments were not intended to reflect the City Council but rather her position as a worker-justice organizer.
“I worry [this legislation] really builds communities that turn their backs on immigrants, friends, and neighbors, which is very bad,” Salih said. “If a city is not a welcoming city, people will not come to it.”