Gov. Reynolds signs so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ bill, which she said was aimed at ‘far-left liberals in Des Moines and Iowa City’

Gov. Kim Reynolds — photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa

On Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed SF 481, the so-called “sanctuary cities bill,” into law. Reynolds didn’t issue a statement — the reference to SF 481 was buried in a press release announcing the governor signed 17 bills on April 10 — but two months ago, she hailed the bill as a way to “send a message to the far-left liberals in Des Moines and Iowa City.”

That statement came in a fundraising letter from Reynolds’ gubernatorial campaign, attempting to use misplaced fears about sanctuary cities — which even proponents of the bill admit don’t exist in Iowa — to pry open the wallets of Iowans.

Bleeding Heartland posted a copy of the letter in February.

I remain strongly opposed to any city or community in Iowa becoming a sanctuary for illegal immigrants who have broken the law.

Right now, our state’s legislature is debating this important issue, and I want to know where you stand: Do you stand with me and oppose sanctuary cities?

By sending in $10, $15, or $25 today, you can send a message to far-left liberals in Des Moines and Iowa City on this important issue.

Under SF 481, anyone can file a complaint that a municipality is failing to fully cooperate with federal immigration agents. Either the Iowa Attorney General’s office or a county attorney’s office would then have to investigate the complaint. If it is determined that the city isn’t complying with the law — which forbids cities from adopting any policy that discourages local police from cooperating with federal immigration agents, and requires police departments to detain people at the request of those agents, even if the person isn’t charged with a crime — the city will lose all state funds until a district court judge determines the city is in compliance.

According an analysis by the Legislative Services Agency:

The denial of State funding based upon a valid finding of a violation… would potentially impact a wide range of State funding, which includes: Road Use Tax Fund allocations, grants, and reimbursements; State property tax replacements, tuition replacement, flood mitigation projects, community college funding, grants made by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, and many other areas.

Reynolds wasn’t the only Republican who made it clear this bill was aimed at Iowa City. During debate in the Iowa House, Rep. Steve Holt of Dennison, who was the bill’s floor manager, said it was needed because Iowa City is “in defiance of the rule of law.” Holt appeared to be referring to a resolution passed by the Iowa City Council in January 2017, three days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president. The resolution stated the Iowa City Police Department did not have to assist federal agents enforce immigration law, except in cases involving public safety.

Traditionally, enforcement of immigration law has been solely the responsibility of federal officials.

“We intend to keep [Iowa City] a safe and welcoming place for all its residents and visitors,” Mayor Jim Throgmorton said when the Iowa City Council passed the resolution. “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.”

That was also the position of most local law enforcement officials across the state. And it was a point that Marlu Abarca, a member of Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs, made to the governor with a very personal story.

On Thursday, Abraca sent a letter to Reynolds on behalf of the commission, which was created in 1974 to advise governors on the needs and condition of the state’s Latino population, “to implore [the governor] to VETO SF481.”

“The Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs is concerned that police assistance with federal enforcement efforts would prevent Latinos from reporting crimes, cooperating with police, or seeking police protection,” Abraca wrote. “SF481 would break down the confidence and trust between law enforcement and the diverse communities they serve and protect.”

Abraca shared the story of her own mother, who, prior to becoming a naturalized citizen was raped, but was unsure what her rights were and was afraid to go to the police.

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“Because of her fear, and the fear of her coworkers of coming forward about these crimes — for fear of being separated from their families — my mother will never receive justice,” Abraca told the governor.

She concluded the letter: “SF 481 does not reflect the values of Iowans; this is not the Iowa that we want, and it is not the Iowa that our children deserve.”

SF 481 passed both the Iowa House and Senate with only Republicans voting in favor of it. No law enforcement group spoke out in favor of SF 481, and the Iowa Police Chiefs Association officially opposed the bill, as did the Iowa attorney general and the Iowa County Attorneys Association.

The only group to register with the state legislature as being in favor of the bill was the Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which was described as a “nativist extremist” group in a 2015 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.


  1. So we’ve solved a problem that didn’t exists, and gone against the wishes of the state police and attorneys general, just to throw a middle finger at alleged “far left liberals.”

    America, 2018.

  2. Our Far Radical Right Governor has aligned herself with the extreme Right Republicans to harm people who have been good ‘citizens’, even while they are denied citizenship. It’s a sad state of affairs in Neo-Confederate Iowa. My ancestors fought against the traitors in our Civil War. It is sad to see our Radical Republican legislature destroying human compassion.

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