DOJ sues Iowa over state immigration law

The Justice Department on Thursday sued Iowa over a recent law that forbids people from being in the state if they were previously denied entry into the United States.

Iowa’s Senate File 2340 makes it a crime for a person to be in Iowa if they were previously removed from the U.S. or have outstanding deportation orders.

“Iowa cannot disregard the U.S. Constitution and settled Supreme Court precedent,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“We have brought this action to ensure that Iowa adheres to the framework adopted by Congress and the Constitution for regulation of immigration.”

The suit comes after the Justice Department warned Iowa last week that it would launch litigation if the state implemented the law, noting the Supreme Court has previously determined only the federal government has the power to enforce immigration laws.

Boynton said the law “effectively creates a separate state immigration scheme,” which “intrudes into a field that is occupied by the federal government and is preempted.”

The Iowa Department of Justice did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Iowa law follows the passage of a similar law in Texas, which granted local law enforcement the power to effectively carry out immigration duties and deport those perceived to be migrants to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin.

The DOJ likewise sued over that law, which has been put on hold while litigation continues.

The Justice Department suit followed another filed earlier Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Immigration Council.

“This ugly law is deeply harmful to Iowa families and communities. Iowa lawmakers knowingly targeted people who are protected by federal immigration laws and who are legally allowed to be here, like people granted asylum, or special visas given to survivors of domestic violence or other crimes,” the ACLU said in a statement.

“And there are lots of good reasons — related to foreign relations, national security, humanitarian interests, and our constitutional system — why the federal government enforces our immigration law, instead of all 50 states going out and doing their own thing to enforce their own separate immigration schemes. It’s hard to overstate how awful and bizarre this law is.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) previously defended the state’s passage of the law.

​​“The only reason we had to pass this law is because the Biden Administration refuses to enforce the laws already on the books,” Reynolds said in a post on the social platform X last week.

“I have a duty to protect the citizens of Iowa. Unlike the federal government, we will respect the rule of law and enforce it.”

The Justice Department has had initial success in its litigation on other laws and practices it sees as a challenge to federal authority.

The DOJ also sued Texas after it placed large buoys in the Rio Grande to block migrants crossing the river, and the department also challenged Texas’s placement of concertina wire along the border, arguing it interfered with U.S. immigration agents carrying out their jobs.

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