Anti-immigrant law SF481 officially in effect in Iowa

On Sunday, July 1, a day after thousands of Iowans stood in solidarity with immigrant families at the border for a national day of action to #KeepFamiliesTogether, Senate File 481 (SF481) officially became Iowa law. The law requires local entities – specifically police – to work more closely with federal immigration agencies like ICE.

The bill was denounced by immigrants and allies during the past two legislative sessions, stating it promoted racial profiling and made Iowa less safe for all people.

“In the past year, ICE activity in Iowa has increased by 67%. While all eyes are on the disastrous situation at the border, ICE continues to disrupt our communities and destroy Iowa families,” said Isabel Conn, an Iowa CCI member and domestic violence advocate. “It’s dangerous to force Iowa police and sheriffs to comply with a federal agency that acts without rules, regulations, or repercussions. Iowans will lose trust in their police, creating an even more dangerous situation for victims of crime.”

Iowa has already seen a glimpse of the dangers of this law in Mt. Pleasant, where three levels of Iowa law enforcement – city police, county sheriffs, and state patrol – aided in a workplace raid without detailed information from ICE regarding the operation. First-hand reports stated police were dressed in full riot gear while a helicopter circled the concrete facility.

Here’s What SF481 Will Do

The law increases Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) power in Iowa, including:

  • Increasing local/state law enforcement collaboration with ICE
  • Preventing local entities from restricting cooperation with ICE
  • Requiring local/state law enforcement to honor ICE detainer requests, a less formal version of a judicial warrant

By January 1st, all law enforcement agencies in Iowa will be forced to provide written policy regarding enforcement of immigration law as required by Senate File 481. 

Advocates say SF481 will be disastrous not only for undocumented Iowans, but also those with various status privileges like permanent residents, refugees, visa-holders, and recipients of programs like DACA and TPS. According to the administration, ICE is supposed to target criminals and violent offenders. However, the majority of detainees from Iowa’s only crime is re-entering the United States to reunite with their families.

“Every individual has rights in the United States, including immigrants in our communities,” said CCI immigrant rights organizer Madeline Cano. “But what we’ve been seeing in Iowa and across the country for years is a complete violation of an individual’s constitutional rights and denial of due process simply because an individual was born in Mexico or Central America.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members and immigrant rights allies across the state say they will continue fighting to repeal this unconstitutional law. In three community meetings held in late June attended by over 500 Iowans, Iowa CCI members and immigrant allies committed to provide ‘Know  Your Rights’ trainings, support families in need, and push local/state officials to make Iowa a welcoming place for all.

Here’s How We’re Fighting Back

  1. Repeal SF481

Bottom line – SF481 is bad public policy. It violates our constitutional rights, subjects law enforcement to profile communities, and holds public officials hostage by threatening funding. That’s why our main goal is to not only reject SF481 – but repeal it.

Meet with your local legislators. They represent us 365 days out of the year, not just during legislative session. Now is the time to sit down – face to face – with elected officials and demand that they publicly reject SF481 and commit to repealing it in 2019.

2. Keep families together

This law is destructive to its core. We’re not seeing violent criminals being removed from our communities. We’re seeing mothers, fathers, and families being targeted, detained, and deported. Many of whom have no previous criminal record other than a charge for trying to reunite with their families.

The long-term trauma caused by family separation is immeasurable.

Join a community response team. Iowa CCI, American Friends Service Committe, and other immigrant rights organizations have collaborated to form local response teams to help track ICE activity in their neighborhoods, work closely with impacted families, and prepare communities for potential raids.

Contact Berenice Nava-Romero at (515)274-4851 if you are interested in volunteering on a team.

3. Keep people out of jail

ICE has no power without the assistance of local law enforcement. ICE works to trap individuals when they have been arrested for misdemeanors or minor infractions through a detainer request. SF481 now requires all local law enforcement to honor these requests and to hold individuals in jail while ICE investigates them.

Meet with your local police and sheriff. It’s important to know where your local law enforcement departments stand on this issue. All departments will be required to have written policy stating how they plan to enforce immigration law by January 2019. Gather a group of your friends and set up a meeting with your police chief and county sheriff.

Contact Maddie Cano at (515)282-0484 if you are interested in setting up a meeting.

4. Report ICE

If you see something, say something. ICE operates in secret. They don’t want the public to know about their activity in Iowa. That’s why we must work to expose them.

Call our 24-7 bilingual hotline at (515)996-0003 to report any ICE activity in your neighborhood or if someone you know has been detained by ICE.

Through this hotline, we’ve been able to help dozens of families, utilize the data to track ICE patterns in Iowa, and keep people informed.

Stay tuned! A toolkit is on the way!