Lawsuit filed by DOJ and civil rights organizations seeks to halt implementation of controversial immigration bill in Iowa

The controversial immigration law, SF 2340, is facing opposition from the Department of Justice and civil rights groups. On Thursday, both parties filed separate lawsuits with the aim of blocking the law from being implemented in Iowa.

SF 2340 grants local law enforcement authorities the authority to apprehend migrants who have previously been deported or expelled from the country, or who have been denied entry in the past. Furthermore, it empowers judges to issue orders for individuals to be returned to the country from which they entered the United States.

Children can still face charges under the law.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit shortly after Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton sent a letter to Governor Kim Reynolds, obtained by ABC News. In the letter, Boynton urged the governor to repeal the law by May 7 or be prepared for legal consequences.

The law was passed by state lawmakers last month, and it was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It is set to go into effect on July 1.

According to a statement by Boynton, Iowa cannot ignore the U.S. Constitution and established Supreme Court precedents. The purpose of taking legal action is to ensure that Iowa follows the regulations for immigration that were adopted by Congress and are in line with the Constitution.

The Iowa law, Senate File 481, draws heavily from a similar law in Texas, known as Senate Bill 4 or SB 4, which is currently under review by the courts and is yet to take effect. The Department of Justice has also filed a lawsuit against SB 4, which grants local law enforcement officials the authority to detain immigrants suspected of illegal entry. In a similar vein, the Iowa law empowers judges to order the removal of individuals from the country if deemed necessary.

On Thursday, the American Immigration Council, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Iowa, took legal action by filing a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice and two individuals represented by the immigrant rights organization.

Lawyers representing the group argue in the lawsuit that the law fails to account for individuals who have been previously deported or denied admission but later obtained legal authorization to be in the country. They assert that this lack of exceptions puts even those granted asylum, belonging to protected classes, or holding green cards at risk of potential arrest and imprisonment.

A heart-wrenching anecdote presented in the lawsuit revolves around an 18-year-old Honduran migrant. Tragically, her father was brutally murdered and her sister was kidnapped in their home country. At the tender age of 14, she sought refuge in the United States but was subsequently deported, as shared by the ACLU. Determined to find safety, she returned to the U.S. on her own and was eventually granted asylum. This young girl’s resilience and unwavering spirit serve as a reminder of the hardships faced by countless individuals seeking refuge.

According to the groups, they claim that she could potentially face arrest and imprisonment as a result of this law.

A violation of the law could result in a prison sentence ranging from 2 to 10 years. According to the law, individuals who have been convicted of two or more misdemeanors related to drugs, crimes against a person, or both, and are subsequently removed, may face up to 5 years in prison as a Class D felony.

If individuals have been previously deported due to a felony conviction, they could potentially be charged with a Class C felony and may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. It is important to note that all convicted individuals would be subject to a removal order, but some may have the option to choose voluntary removal instead of facing further prosecution.

“This law has severe detrimental effects on families and communities in Iowa. Lawmakers in Iowa deliberately targeted individuals who are protected by federal immigration laws and have legal permission to be in the country, such as those who have been granted asylum or special visas due to being survivors of domestic violence or other crimes,” stated Rita Bettis Austen, Legal Director of the ACLU of Iowa. “Furthermore, there are numerous valid reasons, including foreign relations, national security, humanitarian concerns, and the preservation of our constitutional system, why the enforcement of immigration laws falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government rather than individual states devising their own separate immigration policies. The extent of the harm caused by this law cannot be overstated; it is truly appalling and perplexing.”

Governor Reynolds, in a recent post on X, criticized President Joe Biden for his alleged failure to uphold and enforce existing immigration laws.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed a lawsuit against Iowa for its efforts to protect its citizens, even as Joe Biden refuses to enforce existing immigration laws. Governor [Name] expressed his determination, stating, ‘If he won’t uphold the rule of law, Iowa will!'”

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