Iowa will face lawsuit if it acts on immigration law, DOJ warns

ReynoldsKim Iowa

The Department of Justice (DOJ) warned Iowa on Friday that the state will face a lawsuit if it implements an immigration law that forbids people from being in the state if they were previously denied entry into the United States.

The DOJ informed Iowa’s top state officials, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state Attorney General Brenna Bird, that it intends to sue The Hawkeye State by May 7 if it enforces SF 2340, a bill that 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. 

Reynolds said the law will be enforced since it is her “duty” to protect Iowa residents. 

“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 Friday post on social media platform X. “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 DOJ letter — first reported by The Des Moines Register — argued Iowa’s law violates the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“SF 2340 is preempted by federal law and violates the United States Constitution,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said in a letter that was obtained by The Hill.

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

Bird, like Reynolds, signaled that the state will push ahead with the law despite the DOJ’s request. 

“Not only has Biden refused to enforce federal immigration laws & secure our border, he is now threatening to block states like IA from enforcing our own laws,” Bird said Friday on X. 

“Our message to Biden is this: IA will not back down & stand by as our state’s safety hangs in the balance. If Biden refuses to stop the border invasion & keep our communities safe, IA will do the job for him.” 

DOJ’s threat of a lawsuit is not a hollow one.

The department sued Texas earlier this year after it passed a law allowing state law enforcement to effectively carry out immigration duties and deport those perceived to be migrants to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin. The law has been put on hold while litigation continues.

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 alongside the border, arguing it interfered with U.S. immigration agents carrying out their jobs.

Those suits, though still working their way through the court system, have been largely successful for DOJ, with courts siding with the department that immigration enforcement is a power reserved to the federal government.

Nationally, Republicans have gone after President Biden, accusing him of not enforcing federal law on the southern border. 

House Republicans impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in protest of Biden’s abortion policies in February. The House GOP also derailed a bipartisan deal brokered in the Senate earlier this year that would have imposed new restrictions along the border.

Iowa’s law, which was signed by Reynolds on April 10, will go into effect on July 1. 

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