Government

Iowa City Council to vote on immigration enforcement resolution

Measure would direct local police not to invest resources in federal immigration enforcement

People walk by the Iowa City City Hall which includes the Police Department in Iowa City on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People walk by the Iowa City City Hall which includes the Police Department in Iowa City on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution concerning local police’s role in immigration law enforcement.

The resolution is in response to a larger discussion of sanctuary cities around the country after President-elect Donald Trump said he plans for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

While there is no exact definition of a sanctuary city, City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes explained the concept in a recent memo to council, saying that it’s essentially any government entity that limits cooperation with federal officials on immigration enforcement, does not actively seek immigration status of residents or does not allocate resources to the enforcement of federal immigration law.

While the council’s resolution stops short of declaring Iowa City a sanctuary, if passed, it would reaffirm the Iowa City Police Department’s role is in maintaining public safety rather than enforcing federal immigration law.

The council is scheduled to vote on the “Resolution Reaffirming the Public Safety Function of Local Law Enforcement” Tuesday in a formal meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 410 E. Washington St. The meetings are open to the public and residents may address council on the agenda item when it comes up.

The council directed Dilkes to draft the resolution after a work session on the topic on Jan. 3.

Some council members rejected the name “sanctuary city” two weeks ago, in part for fear it may make the city a target for the incoming administration. According to Trump’s administration, entities that do not cooperate in the new administration’s deportation efforts could face loss of federal funding.

One common concern of sanctuary cities is that those municipalities are in some way breaking the law. Dilkes said during the council’s work session that she knows of no federal or state law that requires local governments to put any resources into federal immigration enforcement.

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City Manager Geoff Fruin told the council during the work session that the Iowa City Police Department has never been asked to cooperate in federal immigration enforcement. The resolution, however, would direct ICPD on how to respond if it is ever requested to help.

If passed, the resolution would direct the ICPD to “not undertake any law enforcement action for the purpose of detecting the presence of undocumented people or devote any public resources to the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

The resolution points to community safety as a major reason not to enforce federal immigration law.

This thinking is along the same lines as the Johnson County Community ID program, which was created in part to help all residents feel safe reporting crimes or talking with police. In that program, residents can apply for a community ID without necessarily having to prove they are in the United States legally.

“Any perception that the local police are involved in the enforcement of immigration law will undermine the police-community relationships that have been built up over the years, and thereby undermine the ability of the police to keep the community safe,” according to the resolution.

The resolution, however, would not limit or prohibit federal officials’ enforcement of immigration law in Iowa City. Nor does it affect the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Priority Enforcement Program, which requires fingerprints of those arrested to be sent to ICE.

These concerns were among those that hundreds of area residents called or wrote in about to City Hall, most after they received a robocalls from the Priorities for Iowa organization about the topic last month.

Here is the wording of Iowa City’s “Resolution Reaffirming the Public Safety Function of Local Law Enforcement,” set for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. session.

WHEREAS, the City of Iowa City devotes resources to law enforcement for the purpose of assuring the safety of all persons who reside in or visit our community; and

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WHEREAS, the power to regulate immigration is exclusive to the federal government and the enforcement of immigration law is a function of the federal government that currently resides with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security; and

WHEREAS, no federal law compels the local police to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law and any such requirement would raise significant anti-commandeering issues under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, for as long as the City can remember, the Iowa City Police Department has not been involved in the enforcement of federal immigration law; and,

WHEREAS, any perception that the local police are involved in the enforcement of immigration law will undermine the police-community relationships that have been built up over the years, and thereby undermine the ability of the police to keep the community safe; and,

WHEREAS, it is essential to public safety that every person, regardless of immigration status, who is a victim of or a witness to a crime feels comfortable reporting crimes or aiding in the investigation of crimes.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF IOWA CITY, IN THE STATE OF IOWA:

I. Except as necessary for public safety as determined by the Police Chief or designee, or as otherwise required by state or federal law, the Iowa City Police Department shall not undertake any law enforcement action for the purpose of detecting the presence of undocumented persons or devote any public resources to the enforcement of federal immigration law.

2. This resolution addresses the discretionary use of legal city resources and does not:

(i) Prohibit, or in any way restrict, any official or employee of the City of Iowa City from sending to or receiving from ICE information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual (8 U.S. C. Section 1373);

(ii) Affect or limit the enforcement of federal immigration law by federal authorities within the City of Iowa City;

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(iii) Affect or limit ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program (f/k/a Secure Communities) whereby all fingerprints of adults arrested, or juveniles taken into custody, for a crime other than a simple misdemeanor are automatically included in the federal automated fingerprint identification system and cross checked against the ICE database, such that ICE is notified of that person’s arrest and detention in the jail; or

(iv) In any way condone, encourage or assist the violation of federal law which makes it a crime for any person to, “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation.” (8 U.S. C. Section 13 24)

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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