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Iowa sued over hardline immigration law; rights groups claim it's unconstitutional

A newly passed law making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to be in Iowa is being challenged in court as unconstitutional by civil rights and immigration groups.

The state of Iowa’s attempts to crack down hard on illegal immigration is being challenged in court.

A newly passed law making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to enter or re-enter the Hawkeye State if he or she has previously been deported or denied admission to the U.S., is being disputed as unconstitutional by civil rights and immigration groups. 

The complaint filed Thursday alleges that the new statute steps on the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law. The case is similar to a more expansive Texas law that has been challenged by both the Justice Department and civil rights groups.


The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the American Immigration Council on behalf of the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice and two individual Iowans. It’s the first legal action taken against Iowa in response to the law, though the U.S. Department of Justice warned the state’s top officials last week.

The bill, Senate File 2340, was signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, gives Iowa law enforcement officers the ability to charge people with an aggravated misdemeanor if they have entered the country illegally. It goes into effect on July 1 and mirrors part of a high-profile Texas law that is currently blocked in court.

The law specifically makes it an aggravated misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by up to two years in prison, for migrants in the state who have outstanding deportation orders, who were previously deported or previously prohibited from entering the country.

The crime is raised to a felony offense, according to the new law, if the immigrant's removal orders pertained to misdemeanor convictions for drug-related crimes, crimes against people, or prior felony convictions.

However, the claimants argue that the new law conflicts with existing immigration laws by giving law enforcement the power to arrest immigrants who have authorization to be in the U.S., such as those granted asylum or those who were given visas to protect them from crime or trafficking.

Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director at the American Immigration Council, said even a person who has lawful immigration status, could be arrested and deported if they were previously deported or removed and reentered the country. 


"It's a law that makes absolutely no sense and is clearly unconstitutional," Goettel said. "SF 2340 isn't just about so-called criminal reentry. It's a badly written law with far-reaching implications. It will create absolute chaos and human suffering in our legal system, and harm Iowa communities."

Several states are trying to pass laws to clamp down on unprecedented levels of illegal immigration pouring into the country since President Biden took office. In Iowa and across the country, Republican leaders accuse Democratic President Joe Biden of failing to manage the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nearly 7.3 million migrants have illegally crossed the southwest border under President Biden's watch, a number greater than the population of 36 individual states, a Fox News analysis in February found. Tens of thousands more have crossed into the country illegally since then. 

Reynolds told Fox and Friends on Monday that the DOJ told her administration that the state is interfering with the federal government’s attempts to enforce immigration laws. 

She said the claims were "ridiculous" given the high number of crossings.

"They are not enforcing the immigration laws that are on the books and in every state in this country, every governor understands the consequences of what is happening. We are seeing violent crime, increased drug seizures, we’re seeing overdose deaths skyrocketing.

"And if this president is not going to do his job then the states are going to have to step in and do it for him… he’s not undertaking his constitutional duty to protect the sovereignty of this country."

Fox News’ Kyle Morris and Adam Shaw, as well as the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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