Sanctuary City bill could do more damage than good



District 11, R-Storm Lake Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

“Sanctuary City”; a law made necessary by political arrogance and stupidity. One of the hottest issues in the House over the past several days has been a bill dealing with sanctuary cities. A “sanctuary city” is a city that has approved ordinances that direct their law enforcement officials to violate federal law, by refusing to cooperate with federal officials in the reporting and detention of undocumented immigrants who have been arrested.

There are no sanctuary cities in Iowa, so why is this law even being considered? One Iowa community has taken it upon themselves to hijack the title of sanctuary city. I say hijacked because the ordinance they proposed was not anything close to a true sanctuary city. They claim the title of sanctuary city while they are still submitting the names, known aliases and finger prints of anyone arrested to the FBI. True sanctuary cities do not cooperate with the FBI. This is the stupid aspect mentioned in my opening statement; a community that proposes to assume the title of “Sanctuary City” while adopting none of the policies normally associated with the title. The assumption would be that the city council is attempting to aggrandize themselves with a segment of their population, without the accompanying challenges of actually implementing the policy.

It has been documented over and over that sanctuary city laws have resulted in the release of criminals that could have been deported, and then later commit heinous crimes. On the other side of the issue, law enforcement officials, school officials, social workers and many others tell us of the anxiety that occurs in minority communities with any discussion of sanctuary city laws. Children are afraid to attend school, cooperation with law enforcement suffers, and attendance in the workplace declines, even among those who are legal residents. The perception of any sanctuary city law is that it brings undue scrutiny on the entire minority population, legal or otherwise.

The arrogance of their action is demonstrated by the fact that a bill making sanctuary cities illegal has been active in the Iowa Legislature for over a year, and yet they persist. Knowing full well that their continued pursuit of sanctuary city status would bring the scrutiny of lawmakers, they continue to move ahead with their plan. A plan that, in essence, does absolutely nothing positive for anyone or anything except the public relations of the city council. While on the other hand it creates huge problems for law enforcement, educators, businesses and anyone who works with minority communities.

We are a land of law. No individual, group or government entity has the right to pick and choose laws they will obey or those that they might ignore. This is exactly what this community has done, and is now indignant that the General Assembly is considering legislation that calls them out on their violation of federal law and proposes penalties. All of this could have been avoided, but this community has decided that their publicity stunt of a sanctuary city ordinance was more important than avoiding the upheaval that it has caused across the state.

Having said all this, I am sure that many of you are aware, that I was the lone Republican on the Public Safety Committee that voted against the bill that would have made sanctuary cities illegal in Iowa.  A vote for the bill would have been a vote for the rule of law in Iowa. Conventional wisdom would indicate that I should have voted for this bill. So here are my thoughts in regard to my negative vote. This law is in response to the actions of one renegade community in the state. This community has had over a year to back away from their unlawful proposals and have refused. The questions, as I see them, are: Do we cause upheaval and anxiety in the community? Do we destroy the relationships that law enforcement and local officials have built over the years with our minority communities? Even though the bill has absolutely no effect on persons here legally, and in fact it has no effect on anyone here illegally that hasn’t committed a crime, do we ignore the perception that this is an anti-immigrant bill? I have come to the conclusion that the damage that this bill does in our minority communities far outweighs any advantage of calling a renegade community to task.

I assume that this bill will be approved by the Legislature and will be sent to the Governor. I have no indication as to her opinion of the bill. The bill is justified as it upholds the rule of law in the state of Iowa but, in my opinion, the damage it may cause outweighs any advantage. We can hope our renegade community will back down from their lawless position but regardless of whether or not they do, they should be held responsible for the anxiety and disruption that they have caused statewide. 

Please join me at my upcoming forum this Saturday, March 17 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake.