By Sara Avalos
A new law officially took effect in Iowa on July 1 that will punish local governments if they do not work with federal officials in enforcing immigration laws.
SF 481 is targeting so called “sanctuary cities,” such as Iowa City, although it does not label itself as such. After a long debate, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill in April.
Cities could face losing their state funding if they do not comply with federal authorities in regard to immigration laws.
Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said he does not agree with the law, and he believes in making all people feel welcome.
“It’s a bad law; it seeks to instill fear among undocumented residents,” Throgmorton said.
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The law is also unnecessary, he said, because Iowa City already complies with all of the requirements. Officials believe that the city shouldn’t expect to see any major changes.
“We don’t expect any changes as to how we do our jobs at the Police Department,” Iowa City police public-information Sgt. Derek Frank said.
Manny Galvez, a Johnson County resident and activist who has been quite vocal in his support for immigrants, believes that Iowa’s diversity is changing in terms of different ethnicities who live in it.
“When the legislators were having the debate about this law, they said that they don’t know who we are,” Galvez said.
He believes that with the administration in the White House, people are getting the wrong impressions of the Latino community, and that changes the way states think.
Even though the new law might not affect Iowa City as a whole, Galvez said, it will scare families who are targeted by the measure, especially because other counties in Iowa have worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“People will get scared,” Galvez said. “Parents are going to get scared of ICE coming into Iowa City and breaking their families apart.”
Both Galvez and Throgmorton want families to not fear the law and to maintain their normal routines.
“Don’t stop your lives because of this; keep on doing what you’re doing,” Galvez said.
Throgmorton wants the families who feel targeted to know that there is a policy that states that Iowa City police cannot stop someone or detain people simply because officers believe they might be undocumented.
The policy states, “Except as necessary for public safety as determined by the police chief or designee, or as otherwise required by state or federal law, the Iowa City Police Department shall not undertake any law-enforcement action for the purpose of detecting the presence of undocumented persons or devote any public resources to the enforcement of federal immigration law.”
Throgmorton also wants the people of Iowa City to know that if they do not support laws like this to become more involved in politics and voting.
“Help flip key federal and state legislative seats for more progressive candidates,” he said.