Joining Texas, Iowa Enacts Law for State Immigration Enforcement


Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law on Wednesday that will make it a state crime for a person to enter Iowa after having been deported or denied entry into the United States.

The new law, which is set to take effect July 1 but could face court challenges, joins Iowa with Texas in seeking to enforce immigration limits outside the federal system. Ms. Reynolds, who had said she would sign the legislation, accused federal officials of failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and putting Americans at risk.

“The Biden administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, putting the protection and safety of Iowans at risk,” Ms. Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement. “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.”

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Most but not all Democrats in the Iowa Legislature voted against the measure. But with Republicans wielding large majorities in both chambers, opponents could not prevent the bill from passing.

“This bill is a political stunt and a false promise that doesn’t contain the needed resources,” State Senator Janice Weiner, a Democrat from the Iowa City area, said when her chamber debated the measure. “It’s a gotcha bill.”

The law makes it a misdemeanor for a person to enter Iowa if they were previously deported from the United States, denied entry to the country, or left the country while facing a deportation order. In some cases, including people with certain prior convictions, the state crime would become a felony. To enforce the new law, Iowa police officers would be allowed to make arrests in most places, but not in schools, places of worship or health care facilities.

State Representative Steven Holt, a Republican who supported the bill, said after it passed in his chamber that “states can and must act.”

“Many other states are standing up to protect their sovereignty, and their citizens and Iowa must do the same,” Mr. Holt said.

Iowa’s State Capitol in Des Moines is roughly 1,100 miles from the nearest point on the Mexican border, and 500 miles from Canada. About 6 percent of people in Iowa were born outside the United States.

The signing of the law showed that Republicans, even those far from the border, plan to continue focusing on immigration issues in this election year. Ms. Reynolds is one of several governors who have sent National Guard troops and law enforcement officers to Texas to support Gov. Greg Abbott’s increasingly assertive approach to policing the border.

But the Iowa law, like one passed in Texas that has been challenged in court, goes beyond securing the border, and seeks to carve out a state role in policing illegal immigration, which has long been the exclusive domain of federal law enforcement. The Biden administration has called the Texas law, which makes it a state crime to cross the border illegally, an unconstitutional infringement on federal authority over immigration.

More states could follow in Texas and Iowa’s footsteps. Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a measure this year that would have authorized the state police to arrest undocumented immigrants, but te bill was vetoed by the governor, a Democrat. Several other states are weighing similar bills.



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