Last week, Governor Reynolds privately signed a controversial anti-immigration bill into law which takes effect July 1, 2018. While the bill is designed to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Iowa, there are no such cities in the state.

The new law will ban and penalize any form of a so-called “Sanctuary City”. The law cracks-down on cities and counties who do not comply with federal immigration authorities seeking to deport immigrants who entered the country illegally or risk losing state funding. However, law enforcement officials say they are already complying with federal law and no law enforcement organizations were in favor of the bill.

Additionally, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency said the law could jeopardize state funding to Iowa’s public schools and places educators and schools in the middle of immigration enforcement activities that are best handled by law enforcement. As a result, communities would experience a heavy increase in property taxes to supplement the penalty until a court determines compliance of the law.

Senate File 481 will ban local entities from crafting policies that prevent law enforcement officers and other local officials from inquiring about the immigration status of a person. State funding will be restored to local governments after a 90 day lapse if it rescinds any “sanctuary” policies.

Republican lawmakers and the Governor wrote the bill and passed it without input or feedback from Iowa communities. The law does not take into account the chilling effect on immigrant communities nor the damage to trusting relationships built with local law enforcement to create a safer environment. Rather, they unilaterally implanted a law that forces local compliance while jeopardizing Iowan’s constitutional rights.

In the past, Iowa courts ruled that ICE detainer requests, without judicial consent, are not considered authorization for local jails to extend inmates’ detention. This makes jails potentially vulnerable to Fourth Amendment right violations, even if community officials are acting on the Federal Government’s behalf. As a result, until an official judicial ruling is made regarding SF 481, there is no guarantee Iowa law enforcement is free of any unconstitutional liability.

Many Iowa communities have already begun to change their local jail policy to comply with the new state law based on the unwritten promise that this law would keep their law enforcement immune from unconstitutional acts and out fear of potentially losing state funding.