Staff Editorial

'Sanctuary' law is political pandering, poor policy

Mazahir Salih, an Iowa City council member, holds up a sign objecting to Senate File 481 while listening to a question during an event featuring Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Hy-Vee Market Grille in Coralville on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Reynolds visited the area to promote the Future Ready Iowa Act, a workforce development program some advocates say will be hindered by SF 481, a law relating to
Mazahir Salih, an Iowa City council member, holds up a sign objecting to Senate File 481 while listening to a question during an event featuring Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Hy-Vee Market Grille in Coralville on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Reynolds visited the area to promote the Future Ready Iowa Act, a workforce development program some advocates say will be hindered by SF 481, a law relating to "sanctuary" cities. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Iowa politicians sent a clear message to the rest of the world this month — immigrants are not welcome here.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation into law last week that aims to punish municipalities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration investigations, commonly known as “sanctuary cities.” Responses to the measure from civil liberties advocates and law enforcement officials alike have been overwhelmingly negative.

We have to wonder why any immigrant, legal or illegal, would want to live and work in a state that promises to hunt down and lock up those who are suspected of violating immigration laws.

State leaders’ anti-immigration words and actions are in direct conflict with Iowa’s pressing need for more workers. Our economic future depends heavily on population growth. We simply can’t afford to hoist a “not welcome” sign in the faces of thousands of foreigners who could enrich our economy and our culture.

Opposition to Iowa’s sanctuary city law is not a defense of lawlessness. Even legal residents and citizens can get swept up in the immigration enforcement machine.

More than 3,000 U.S. citizens have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement through the federal government’s Secure Communities program, according to a 2011 analysis published by Berkeley Law School, and more than 80,000 families with U.S. citizens had a family member arrested.

And if you have any doubt that immigration enforcement has racist outcomes, the same study found 93 percent of individuals arrested under Secure Communities were Latino, although they represent only an estimated 77 percent of undocumented immigrants in the country.

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To be clear, even though Republicans may have led the latest legislative charge in Iowa, mass deportation has been a uniquely bipartisan policy priority for many years.

Secure Communities, for example, was initiated by former President George W. Bush, and then significantly expanded during former president Barack Obama’s first term. And it was former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack who signed Iowa’s controversial “English only” bill in the early 2000s.

Yet Iowans should be particularly concerned with the latest stunts coming from our Republican policymakers, attempting to earn political points off a few Iowans’ misguided fear of immigrants. Reynolds’ campaign even used sanctuary city fearmongering as a ploy to collect voter data online.

That may be a good strategy for short-term political gain, but it will does nothing to prepare Iowa for the future.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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