Government

Iowa City Council unanimously approves resolution concerning local police, 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 unanimously approved an immigration policy Tuesday night that makes clear the role of city police in immigration enforcement.

Council members voted 7-0 to support a resolution that essentially states it’s not the responsibility of local police to aid in federal immigration law enforcement efforts if it is not a public safety matter. The decision came after about 45 minutes of public and council discussion.

Scores of residents filled the council chambers and spilled into the hallway to hear the council’s vote on the immigration policy. About 15 people stood up to speak about the resolution. None of them were against the resolution.

“We intend to keep (Iowa City) a safe and welcoming place for all its residents and visitors,” Mayor Jim Throgmorton said. “If undocumented residents fear they will be deported simply for being undocumented, they will avoid reporting to the police crimes they witness or have committed against them.”

The resolution is in response to a national conversation on sanctuary cities. After the November election, a flood of U.S. cities declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.

While there is no one definition of a sanctuary city, it generally refers to entities limiting cooperation with federal officials in immigration enforcement by not allocating resources to the effort or actively collecting information on one’s immigration status.

President-elect Donald Trump said he plans to deport large numbers of undocumented immigrants once in office. His administration said local governments that do not cooperate in the deportation efforts may face a loss in federal funding.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The resolution does not declare Iowa City a sanctuary in name. In a work session earlier this month, some council members expressed concerns that the name either would make the city a target for the federal government or would give immigrants a false sense of security.

The resolution does, however, stress that local law enforcement’s role is to protect the public, not to enforce federal immigration law. It mandates that the Iowa City Police Department should not act “for the purpose of detecting the presence of undocumented people or devote any public resources to the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

Marcela Hurtado, a member of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, a group that often advocates for immigrants, spoke to the council through a translator. She said the resolution helps the community feel secure.

“There’s a lot of trust that’s been built with the community, the police and the county,” Hurtado said. “And the only way that this trust is going to continue is if people feel safe talking about whatever circumstance or whatever situation might arise, and we really want this trust to continue.”

In addition to his vote of support, council member John Thomas requested the resolution be published in more languages than English.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said in a work session she believes a the policy is not in violation of the law because no state or federal law requires local municipalities to aid in immigration enforcement. This was a major concern of the many who inundated city hall with calls and emails on the subject.

“If anything, this is just reaffirming 200 years of precedent, which reaffirms that the federal government is solely responsible for immigration,” council member Rockne Cole said.

This sentiment seems to be similar on the county level. Supervisor Mike Carberry said he considers Johnson County to be a “de facto” sanctuary or by act and doesn’t necessarily see the benefit of officially declaring itself a sanctuary through policy.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Carberry said the county tries to be welcoming to all people — a value it made clear after the election with a proclamation. For now, he said, the Board of Supervisors’ priorities is to protect initiatives such as its minimum wage, which he believes may be under threat from the Iowa Legislature.

“We’ll do what we can to protect our people,” Carberry said.

“Resolution Reaffirming the Public Safety Function of Local Law Enforcement,”

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

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.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

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;

(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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.