Latino Mass West Liberty
The DOJ and civil rights groups coalition argue SF2340 is unconstitutional, but Iowa says it is within their rights to enforce laws. AFP / Brendan Smialowski

Iowa defended its new immigration law from lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of civil rights groups, arguing that its new measures to allow criminal charges to be brought to undocumented immigrants does not infringe federal authority.

In the lawsuit, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice and the civil rights groups are seeking a temporary or permanent injunction of the law, which goes into effect July 1 unless blocked by the courts.

The Iowa law in question would allow criminal charges to be brought against people who have outstanding deportation orders or who previously have been removed from or denied admission to the U.S. Once in custody, migrants could either agree to a judge's order to leave the U.S. or be prosecuted, potentially facing time in prison before deportation, the Associated Press reports.

The law was passed last legislative session and was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The DOJ and the civil rights groups countered the measure by claiming the new rules without question violate the federal government's sole authority over immigration matters.

"We asked the federal court to temporarily and permanently block this unconstitutional and unjust and deeply harmful law from ever taking effect," said Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis Austin.

Christopher Eiswerth, a DOJ attorney, and Emma Winger, representing the American Immigration Council, said the state law doesn't make exceptions for people who have been deported before but now are in the country legally, such as those seeking asylum.

"Only the federal government gets to decide which non-citizens may enter the United States and which non-citizens should be removed," Winger said.

She also raised concerns that the law does not include exceptions for anyone who's previously been deported but is back in the U.S. seeking asylum or has some form of lawful status. Winger said those exceptions are allowed under federal law but aren't expressly stated in the contested Iowa legislation.

On the other side, Deputy Solicitor General Patrick Valencia defended the law in court. He argued that "the federal government sets the standards" on immigration policy but that "Congress has not said that states lose their rights to enforce those standards."

Valencia also argued the U.S. is facing an immigration crisis that has brought mass human trafficking to Iowa, and the legislation empowers law enforcement to see through federal immigration policy, KCCI reports.

"Under SF2340, federal officials retain their discretion to offer asylum or other removal relief at U.S. ports of entry," the state argued, adding that the federal government would still decide where people should be sent if they are deported from Iowa.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse, more than 100 people held signs and listened to brief speeches in Spanish and English that opposed the new law, the Associated Press reports.

"It's unworkable. It's creating fear and driving misinformation in immigrant communities around our state," Erica Johnson, executive director of the Iowa Migrant Move for Justice, said. "Supporters of the law say they passed it because they were tired of the way the federal government was handling immigration but this law is no solution to that."

The Iowa law is similar to one in Texas, which has been temporarily blocked. In that measure, Texas law would allow the state to arrest and deport people who enter the U.S. illegally. Another similar policy in Oklahoma—which the DOJ is also trying to stop— seeks to impose criminal penalties on those living in the state illegally.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.