Staff Editorial

'Sanctuary' ad claims are misleading voters

Exterior view of the Captiol in Des Moines, Iowa. (Gazette Archives)
Exterior view of the Captiol in Des Moines, Iowa. (Gazette Archives)

Perhaps it was inevitable that votes taken on Iowa’s “sanctuary cities” bill would be used in midterm campaign ads. Both the dubious bill and the ads are an attempt to mislead Iowans with a disingenuous message.

At least two Eastern Iowa lawmakers — Senate Democrats Kevin Kinney of Oxford and Tod Bowman of Maquoketa — have been targeted by their respective opponents, in ads paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa, with misleading immigration claims. More recently, an ad by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum targets his opponent, state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, in a similar way based on her votes in the Legislature.

The most egregious of this cycle features Kinney, a former law enforcement officer who investigated the nation’s first human trafficking case and lobbied to establish the trafficking laws on the books. Kinney and his partner set the standard for how to investigate these cases and, as a member of the Iowa Legislature, Kinney has repeatedly reached across the aisle to lengthen the criminal statute for trafficking and sexual assault and create an Iowa Office of Human Trafficking.

But, in the ad running on local television stations, a grainy photo of Kinney is superimposed on roadside with a bridge in the background. A nearby sign proclaims, “CRIMINALS WELCOME!” The caption erroneously says Kinney “protected sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.”

This, according to the ad, is justified by Kinney’s vote on Senate File 481, more commonly known as the “sanctuary cities” bill. It is worth remembering that SF481 — ultimately signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds, who had earlier used the measure as a fundraising ploy — was passed on a party-line vote over the objections of every law enforcement organization in the state. It allows the state to withhold funding from communities if local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration officials at a level above what is required. It mandates local jails honor all federal immigration detainer requests, even if doing so requires holding people past release dates, and it leaves local agencies on the hook for any resulting Fourth Amendment violations.

Throughout debate of the measure, a single lobbyist registered support on behalf of the Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Hundreds, including refugees and immigrants, demonstrated at the Capitol and offered testimony that passage of the bill would cause undue fear in minority communities, driving a deeper and unnecessary wedge between vulnerable populations and the police officers tasked with serving them.

Somehow, a law enforcement officer, agreeing with other law enforcement officers that a state proposal that goes beyond federal laws is a bad idea and will undermine years of community policing, has been twisted into an act of laying out a welcome mat for criminals. It’s disgusting.

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We’d like to include copies of these ads with the online version of this editorial. However, and in contrast to previous election years, the ads have not been made available, further hindering fact checkers from dismissing such dubious claims and further blocking voters from a clear view of the political games played in Des Moines.

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

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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.

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