On October 20, the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Martha Martinez, an Iowa Dreamer who received authorization to live and work in Iowa. But now, in a terrible bait and switch, she faces criminal charges related to her employment as a noncitizen.

Martha was brought to Iowa without authorization when she was just 11 by her parents from Mexico. She grew up in Muscatine County, attended school there, graduated high school, got a job, and started a family. She is now mother to four children, all American citizens.

In 2013, she was able to get Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which gave her authorization to live, work, and study in the U.S. Qualifying for DACA required Martha to pass a rigorous background check, fill out a lengthy application, and pay a large application fee.­

The purpose of the federal DACA program was to help these extraordinary childhood immigrants  to “come out of the shadows.” But when Martha did so, and went to obtain a driver’s license under her real name and newly issued Social Security number, the Iowa Department of Transportation found a driver’s license from when she was in high school and just 17, which she allegedly obtained using the fictitious name.

With the statute of limitations for that long passed, the Muscatine county prosecutor instead used Martha's continuing employment as the basis of criminal charges. This despite the fact that federal immigration law makes clear that state and local officials may not regulate, either civilly or criminally, the employment of non-citizens in that manner.

“At its heart, this case is about human rights in Iowa, and specifically, whether local authorities can create a DACA-free zone through improper prosecution of a noncitizen for employment,” said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis. “The Courts have long recognized that because foreign policy and international humanitarian interests are at play, Congress must speak with one voice, not with 50 separate state voices, and certainly not with more than 3,000 separate county voices.”

The ACLU of Iowa is proud to have filed an amicus brief in this important case, State v. Martinez. The case marks one of only a few times that an amicus curiae has been allowed to present oral arguments to the Court.

Iowa immigration attorney Jack Hathaway from the Omaha law firm Kasaby and Nicholls presented oral argument for the ACLU of Iowa on its amicus brief, coauthored by University of Iowa College of Law Legal Clinic law professor Bram Elias and ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis.

Attorney Philip Mears represents Martha and argued her case in chief. The Iowa Attorney General's Office defended the prosecution on behalf the state.

Legal documents:

Amicus brief filed in State v. Martinez.

Appeal from the District Court for Muscatine County

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Appellee's Brief 

On discretionary review from the Iowa District Court in and for Muscatine County, Appellant's Final Brief