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Judge Temporarily Halts Iowa’s Texas-Style Immigration Law

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A recently signed Iowa law endangering long-settled immigrants and U.S. citizens of color alike has been halted for now. This week, a federal judge temporarily paused the state’s anti-immigrant SF 2340, ruling that the Texas-style legislation “would interfere with the federal government’s enforcement of U.S. immigration laws,” Reuters reported.

“As a matter of politics, the new legislation might be defensible,” U.S. District Judge Stephen Locher wrote. “As a matter of constitutional law, it is not.”

“The court was right to block this cruel and blatantly unconstitutional law,” said Emma Winger, deputy legal director at the American Immigration Council. The organization filed the lawsuit last month with the ACLU of Iowa and the national ACLU on behalf of Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice. “If it had been allowed to go into effect, it would have meant that even people currently living in the U.S. lawfully could have been arrested, imprisoned, and forced to leave the country.”

“Today’s order means the law cannot be enforced for now while the case is litigated,” said Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa legal director. “We are relieved and grateful for the court’s decision which for the time being blocks SF2340, among the worst anti-immigrant legislation in Iowa’s history and which exposed even lawful immigrants, and even children, to serious harms—arrest, detention, deportation, family separation, and incarceration, by the state.”

Even though they’d never admit it, the Iowa lawmakers who helped pass this law to boost their anti-immigrant cred must be secretly relieved and grateful over this ruling. They know that despite their fearmongering, immigrant workers help keep Iowa running, as noted by Storm Lake Times Pilot Editor Art Cullen in his reaction to the ruling.

“It’s a terrible law that would rip places like Storm Lake, Denison and Marshalltown asunder,” Cullen wrote. He noted all three communitieswould fall apart under the current economic construct built by the Iowa political establishment: Bring in immigrants to do your dirty work, then terrorize them so they know who the boss is, and you can score points with the homies.” 

Cullen notes that a similar law has already been blocked in Texas, where a sound-minded judge made clear that immigration authority lies with the federal government. And Judge Locher, Cullen reminds, is a strict conservative, “nominated by Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and senior Republican of the Senate, with the support of Sen. Joni Ernst, the junior Republican from Iowa.” 

Judge Locher, Cullen continues, “is telling us that this is all about politics and not about the law.” Unfortunately, Republicans in the state have made clear they’re in it for the politics, not the law. State Attorney General Brenna Bird has since filed an appeal to lift Judge Locher’s injunction and again put a target on the backs of Iowans, who contribute, care for their families, and fuel the engine of the state’s economy. 

“Sadly, we are still seeing copycat laws and proposed measures that would cause irreparable harm for immigrant families, including in Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma,” Winger continued. “These types of laws create absolute chaos and human suffering and have no place in our legal system.”

Cullen made one other point that we’ve made: the Governor (and probably a lot of her major donors) didn’t expect this law to take effect, “It is telling that the state Department of Public Safety issued no guidance to the Storm Lake Police Department on how to deal with this impending disaster because the governor didn’t really think this anti-immigrant law was actually going anywhere.”

She didn’t think it would – and she and Iowa’s businesses and farmers (who stayed silent during the legislative debate) surely had their fingers crossed that it wouldn’t. Profiting from the labor of immigrants while vilifying them for political gain is particularly craven. But that’s standard operating procedure for the GOP these days.

RELATED: Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma Face DOJ Lawsuits Over State Laws Endangering Long-Settled Immigrants and U.S. Citizens of Color

As State Anti-Immigrant Bills Multiply, Economic, Public Safety, and Political Chaos Could Spread Well Beyond Immigrant Communities

Nativist Politics from GOP Presidential Candidates Are Bad for the Economics of Iowa Families