Democrat facing heat over stance on immigration reform - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Democrat facing heat over stance on immigration reform

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Harsher immigration laws discussed in Senate File 481 would prohibit Iowa cities and counties from enacting “sanctuary” policies to provide safe havens for undocumented immigrants. The bill passed with a vote of Yes from all Republicans, along with four votes from Democrats. One Democratic senator is facing heat over why he voted in support of the bill. 

Senator Jeff Danielson (D) voted in support of Senate File 481. 

The bill would ban local government from receiving state funds if the legislation was violated. It would require Iowa law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration detainer requests for persons in their custody. In addition, the legislation would prohibit local governments from discouraging local law enforcement officers or others from activities related to enforcing immigration laws.

For immigrant advocates, it's seen as a "get-tough" on immigration tactic, and for conservatives it's a measure that would keep Iowans safe. 

Cedar Valley Advocates for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Founder Lisa Munoz was surprised by Senator Danielson's vote in support of the bill. 

"I don't think that's what Waterloo or the Cedar Valley stands for," said Munoz.  "I think we are a welcoming city, we have a history of diversity and inclusion."

The bill is known to immigrant advocates as the "anti-sanctuary city" bill. 

"It creates a culture of fear among the immigrant community, but it also discourages them from reporting crime," said Munoz. "So domestic violence issues, robbery, theft, assault, anything that local law enforcement would take care of. It creates a suspicion and lack of trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community. And so knowing that this bill really isn't about crime, but the criminalization of immigrants, we were just really surprised."

Munoz says she along with other constituents reached out to the Senator asking for an explanation for why he voted in support. Despite what she says were multiple attempts on social media, she didn't receive a response. KWWL took her concerns to the Senator. 

"I have been a proponent of and advocate for Senator Danielson," said Munoz. "He always talks about working for you and he's stood up for marginalized communities."

Senator Danielson said he stands behind his vote.

"This senator is going to err on the side of keeping the public safe," said Senator Danielson. "At the same time, I'm going to be shouting from the mountain tops-that this country needs an expanded immigration rights policy and comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that's legal and just and if our Democrats can't say those two things in the same sentence, they are going to continue to lose elections in Iowa."

Another point of contention comes from local law enforcement who would be forced to comply with federal immigration detainer requests. A change Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson doesn't see eye-to-eye with. 

"That's the federal government's job," said Thompson. "We won't be an impedance to the federal government doing it's job, but I'm not going to resource allocate to do that. That's not my job, that's not why the taxpayers pay money to this agency to do their business." 

Thompson says legislators need to consider the bill past what's simply written on paper. 

"Not that I want somebody who INS or ICE wanted roaming the streets, I don't," said Thompson. "So I'm more than willing to work with them. However, I'm willing to work with them within the context of what I would have to do in front of my judges too. And if I can't establish probable cause to believe that a crime was committed at their federal level. I have a problem with a legislator telling me guess what you still have to put your neck on the chopping block-so that the ACLU can chop it off."

Sheriff Thompson also noted that if local agencies are enforced to comply with federal law, then they need to be funded to be able to do so. Senator Danielson said he did vote for an amendment to reinforce those costs, but it didn't pass.

The bill now goes to the House where it faces discussion in the closing days of this legislative session. 

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