There was a packed hearing Tuesday at the statehouse for a bill that would withhold state funds from cities and counties that fail to cooperate with federal immigration agents and keep a person in jail for expected deportation.
A handful of police chiefs, including Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser (PROW-sir) spokes in opposition to the bill.
“Just the peripheral conversations, the rumors and so on spread a wave of fear in our communities that greatly impact our ability to create, maintain and grow relationships,” Prosser says. “In my community of 30 to 35 different ethnic groups in a community of about 12,000 to 13,000 people…those relationships are imperative that we are partners in crime prevention, that folks are not afraid to report crimes when they’ve been victimized.”
The subcommittee hearing for public comment on the bill lasted more than an hour. A few complained inaction on immigration reform at the federal level was the root cause of the dispute. A year ago, the city council in Iowa City adopted a resolution stating that unless there’s a public safety threat, no city resources will be used to enforce federal immigration laws.
Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly (MATH-er-lee) told legislators that doesn’t mean federal immigration officials are prevented from picking up suspects who’re under arrest in Iowa City.”We just had it happen last week,” Matherly says. “A person was lodged in the jail because of us and the next day ICE picked them up. That notification system exists and they deal with that. It’s timely. It’s accurate and the system takes place, but we’re not the ones doing that, nor should we be.”
Representative Greg Heartsill, a Republican from Columbia, says that resolution in Iowa City and actions in other cities are what’s prompted this bill. The bill cleared the Iowa Senate last year and Tuesday cleared a House subcommittee.