May 18, 2018

By attorneys Maria Brownell and Kristine Stone

Failure to comply with new law requiring local entities to cooperate with federal authorities in the enforcement of immigration laws could result in denial of State funds.

On April 10, 2018, Governor Reynolds signed into law Senate File 481, an Act relating to the enforcement of immigration laws and providing penalties and remedies, including the denial of state funds to certain entities.

The law expressly requires local entities to comply with directives of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement or any other federal agency regarding federal immigration laws, including an immigration detainer. "Local entity" means the governing body of a city or county and includes an officer or employee of a local entity or a division, department, or other body that is part of the local entity, including but not limited to a sheriff, police department, city attorney, or county attorney.

Local governmental entities may not adopt or enforce any policy that would discourage enforcement of federal immigration law or cooperation with federal immigration officers. In certain circumstances, local law enforcement may be required to cooperate and assist with enforcement of federal immigration laws. Local entities may not discourage or prohibit such cooperation and assistance.

The law expressly prohibits local entities from discriminating against any person on the basis of race, skin color, language, or national origin in the enforcement of immigration laws, except to the extent allowed under state or federal constitutions.

The law requires all law enforcement agencies to formalize in writing any unwritten, informal policies relating to the enforcement of immigration laws and to update their policies to be consistent with the law, to require each officer and employee to fully comply with the law, and to prohibit an officer or employee from preventing law enforcement agency personnel from fully complying with the law. Law enforcement agencies must adopt written policies demonstrating compliance with the law by January 1, 2019.

Any person may file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General's Office alleging a violation of this law. A complaint is not valid unless the Attorney General determines that the local governmental entity intentionally violated the new law. Upon said determination, the AG must provide written notification of the complaint and the grounds for the complaint. The AG may file a civil action in district court to enjoin the violation no later than 40 days after the date on which the notice of violation is received if the entity does not come into compliance with the new law.  The entity may be denied state funds for the state fiscal year following the year in which a final judicial determination in a civil action is made. The Department of Management must adopt rules to implement the denial of state funds.

Cities and counties must review and update their policies relating to the enforcement of immigration laws no later than January 1, 2019.

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Brownell, Maria


Stone, Kristine


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