Iowa Moves To Criminalize ‘Illegal Re-Entry’

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds | Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill on Wednesday that, when enacted, would make being present in the state a crime if the suspect had previously been deported or denied entry into the United States.

SF 2340, one of 39 bills signed by Reynolds that day, would allow the state to apprehend “certain aliens” who are charged with “illegal re-entry” into the state, meaning those who have been either removed or denied entry into the United States in the past.

Reynolds said in a statement that SF 2340 was passed because the “Biden Administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, putting the protection and safety of Iowans at risk.”

“Those who come into our country illegally have broken the law, yet Biden refuses to deport them. This bill gives Iowa law enforcement the power to do what he is unwilling to do: enforce immigration laws already on the books,” she said.

Various groups around the state have presented concerns about what the future will hold under the new law when it takes effect on July 1.

Mark Stringer, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa’s executive director, spoke out against the signing of the bill and called it “one of the most extreme, discriminatory, and unconstitutional anti-immigrant bills in the country.”

“The Iowa law enforcement and state judges tasked with authority to carry out this outrageous law are not trained in immigration law and have no proper authority to enforce it. The law encourages and facilitates racial profiling and stereotyping,” he claimed in a statement.

The bill signed by Reynolds is similar to a bill passed by the Texas Legislature that would make unlawful entry into the state a crime.

SB 4, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in December 2023, would also allow state law enforcement officers to apprehend those suspected of violating the law. However, the bill currently remains unenforceable due to a conjoined lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit alleges that SB 4 is unconstitutional because immigration law enforcement is meant to be an exclusive right of the federal government, and Texas would be overstepping its authority by enforcing the measure.

On the other hand, Texas contends that the bill is constitutional since the federal government has failed to protect the state from a purported invasion of unlawful migrants from the southern border.

The most recent development came in the form of a hearing by a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, where Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielsen said that the goal of this bill was to push “the line of Supreme Court precedent.”

“To be fair, maybe Texas went too far,” he said, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. “That’s the question this court is going to have to decide, but that’s the context of which we are here [sic].”

The Fifth Circuit panel ended the hearing without providing a timeline of when a ruling would officially be made.

The lawsuit over the constitutionality of SB 4 is one of the multiple suits that have arisen from the Lone Star State’s attempts to manage the border crisis. Texas is also wrapped up in lawsuits regarding a floating barrier in the Rio Grande and concertina wire along the southern border meant to deter unlawful crossings.

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