Yesterday was a dark day for our state. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law SF 481, the so-called "anti-sanctuary cities" bill and one of the worse anti-immigrant bills in recent state history.
The law goes into effect July 1, 2018, and will require local law enforcement to "comply with any instruction" made in a detainer request to hold people without a warrant or probable cause of crime, in violation of the constitution. And if local law enforcement doesn't, they could lose all state funding.
Let’s be clear. It violates a person's constitutional rights for lowa law enforcement to hold them without a warrant or probable cause of a crime. But that is what ICE detainer requests ask Iowa law enforcement to do. That’s because ICE “detainer requests” are exactly that: an ask of local law enforcement to hold a person without a warrant or probable cause. As a result of this, we are deeply concerned about the passage of SF481 and will strive to defend the constitutional rights of Iowans against unlawful detentions.
While all people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, regardless of immigration status, the bill doesn't even make exceptions to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who can demonstrate their citizenship or current green card to law enforcement. Note that even the terrible SB 4 bill out of Texas made provisions for people who could prove citizenship or lawful immigration status to local law enforcement.
To understand the weight of the problem here, remember that all an ICE detainer does is provide a window of days for ICE to investigate their suspicions that a person is not lawfully present. It is not even an assertion that a determination has been made. Because detainers aren't warrants (which require law enforcement to go in front of a neutral magistrate to make their case), they just aren't reliable indicators of a person's immigration status. Holding a person in jail beyond the time authorized by state law—i.e., after the person posts bail, is released on his or her own recognizance, completes a sentence, or is acquitted— is a new arrest and must be authorized by a judicial warrant or independent probable cause of a crime. And a detainer request issued by ICE simply isn't either of those things.
Most often, ICE detainers are merely the beginning of an investigation into someone’s status, and that investigation often goes nowhere. For example, government data indicates that, during a four-year period, the Obama Administration placed detainer requests on 834 U.S. citizens. (U.S. citizens are categorically not subject to removal.) These incidents show that ICE detainers are frequently issued haphazardly. Given the Trump administration’s efforts to expand ICE personnel and to heighten focus on immigration enforcement, it is inevitable that these types of mistakes will only increase.
Listening to the debate about this bill was truly disturbing and disheartening. Our constitution protects citizens and immigrants alike, including undocumented immigrants. But even if legislators who voted for it care about the constitutional rights only of U.S. citizens in Iowa, or those who are lawfully present, it's important to note that SF 481 is written so poorly that even they aren't excluded from the bill's reach.
Meanwhile, we’d like to remind people of their rights under Iowa law. The rights spelled out in our materials, linked below, will continue even after July 1.