Sanctuary cities

EDITORIAL

BY ART CULLEN

A legislator from Denison, of all places, plans to introduce a bill this session that would bar cities from offering sanctuary to immigrants. We have no idea what the legislator thinks a “sanctuary city” is, since there is no definition. Is it Ida County, where the sheriff won’t return phone calls to federal authorities? It is listed on some sites as a “sanctuary” for immigrants. The Storm Lake Police Department does not arrest people for being undocumented — that is a federal civil offense and not something local law enforcement is charged to enforce under Iowa law, according to the Iowa Supreme Court. By following guidelines from the state high court, is Storm Lake a “sanctuary city?”

Nobody really knows, and nobody who knows the real score really cares.

The good people of Iowa City stirred up this hornet’s nest by declaring theirs a sanctuary city without knowing what one is. And, it is not as if the Iowa City police were hassling the folks on their way home from work at the West Liberty turkey slaughterhouse.

Storm Lake had been getting on well enough without needing any of this. We are not a sanctuary, we are taxpayers and we expect our share of state and federal programs to which we are entitled. Just because meatpacking landed in Storm Lake should not subject us to penalty and scorn. We’re just doing the best we know how. But that is not what the legislators care about.

Here is what really matters: This is a legislative session preceding a mid-term election that is likely to see the House flip from Republican to Democrat. This so-called “sanctuary city” bill was introduced in the House. The Republicans have spent this state into a black fiscal hole with structural deficits of $100 million annually, at least. Medicaid is a wreck. Troopers have disappeared from the highways. Storm Lake is raising its property taxes on homeowners because of cuts offered by the legislature to big commercial property owners.

The sanctuary city bill was introduced to get us wigging out over it, in hopes that we and those Fred Hubbell TV ads quit carping about these structural deficits and Gov. Kim Reynolds’ benign neglect of it all.

It’s a diversion. The people in Denison don’t want the hassle. They would prefer lower property taxes. That isn’t what they will not get. Instead, they get racial invective.

Or, they get a bill reinstating the death penalty for the first time since 1965. That ought to help schools. That ought to help Genesis Development. That might bring North Lake Manor back to Storm Lake. That ought to lift wages down at the co-op. The conservatives hoping to hold onto power would rather that we are talking about murderous Mexicans and the need to execute them than why we are spending so little on schools and so much on prisons. The Methodists and Catholics will shout it down eventually, Lord help us, but it will serve to distract us from real business.

The Republicans are scared, in deep trouble. The Iowa Poll shows a big swing back to the Democratic way of thinking. Steve King holds just a five-point lead over a generic Democrat. Rep. Rod Blum from the First Congressional District might well be “toast,” as they say. Rep. David Young is in trouble in the Third. Legislators know the congressmen are proxies for the legislature. They smell death in the air.

So they dredge up the fetid politics of racial animosity.

Storm Lake is hardly a sanctuary. If you are Mexican without papers, your kid will get into school and the cops won’t necessarily arrest you, but other than that you are on your own. No welfare. No breaks. Just work, if your employer doesn’t find out. It’s no charmed life. The work involves cleaning your incontinent grandparents, draining plugged manure lines, laying sod in the sun and putting tar on a roof. You sure wouldn’t want them to catch a break. You would rather ship them and their children back to Honduras so that Schleswig might die a little faster.

That’s why the Republicans deserve to lose power in Des Moines in the next election. They want to create problems, not solve them. Iowans tend to figure that out in time. Who does this bill help? What does the death penalty solve? Who is up for re-election, and what fraud can we perpetrate on the public?