Activists and the DOJ File Seperate Lawsuits to Stop Iowa Immigration Crackdown Law

By: Alex Trent | Published: May 10, 2024

Desperate to stop an Iowa immigration law from going into effect July 1, immigration advocates and the Department of Justice have filed separate lawsuits to stop the law ahead of this date.

The Iowa law, modeled after a similar one in Texas, would empower local law enforcement to arrest people who have been previously deported and would allow judges to issue orders to send people back to their country of origin.

SF 2340

The Iowa law, known as Senate File 2340, was signed into law in early April, which was decried some as a sad day for immigrants and advocates in Iowa. 

The Iowa state capitol building seen from below.

Source: Paul Burley/WIkimedia

“Today is a sad day for our state. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law SF 2340, one of the most extreme, discriminatory, and unconstitutional anti-immigrant bills in the country. It’s based on a Texas law that the courts have currently blocked,” said Mark Stringer, ACLU of Iowa Executive Director.


Why is the Law Needed?

Supporters of SF 2340 argue that the federal government is not doing a good enough job keeping the country’s border and interior safe from immigrant crossings and that matters should be allowed to be taken into their own hands.

Three U.S. Border Patrol agents in green uniforms are standing near all-terrain vehicles in a desert-like environment, with mountains in the background. In front of them, a group of individuals are seated on the ground

Source: USBPChief/X

A similar bill in Texas was halted by a court on grounds of constitutionality, though it was still allowed to be enforced while the ruling is being decided. Legal experts often interpret the power to enforce immigration rules as the sole responsibility of the federal government, even if states disagree with policies that may affect them.


In response to the law passed in Iowa, Biden’s Department of Justice as well as civil rights groups are trying to stop it from being implemented.

a wooden court gavel photographed against a black background.

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Usnplash

“Iowa cannot disregard the U.S. Constitution and settled Supreme Court precedent. We have brought this action to ensure that Iowa adheres to the framework adopted by Congress and the Constitution for regulation of immigration,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton representing the DOJ.

Activists Band Together

Several civil rights organizations, including the American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Iowa, filed their own lawsuit on Thursday on behalf of the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice.

A protestor holds up a sign in Chicago in support of immigrants.

Source: Charles Edward Miller/Wikimedia

One of the main thrusts of this separate lawsuit is that how the law is written could allow even people granted asylum or possessing legal green cards to be imprisoned or arrested. Reportedly, the law also doesn’t allow any exceptions for children.

Ugly Law

The ACLU released a statement explaining the motivation behind the lawsuit, fearing the harm that the new law will inflict on Iowa families.

The governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds speaks in 2020.

Source: Matt Johnson/Wikimedia

“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,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said.


Good Reasons to Stop the Law

In the statement, the ACLU expounded upon reasons they think immigration should be left up to the federal government and not the states.

An agent for U.S. Customs and Border Protection watching the border form his truck.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Wikimedia

“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,” said the ACLU


Defense of the Law

Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds has defended the signing of this law, viewing it as necessary in the face of an administration that is not holding up its end of the bargain.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds poses for a photo at ADM.

Source: Kim Reynolds/X

​​“The only reason we had to pass this law is because the Biden Administration refuses to enforce the laws already on the books,” said Reynolds in an X post. “I have a duty to protect the citizens of Iowa. Unlike the federal government, we will respect the rule of law and enforce it.”


Immigration Crisis

These laws and lawsuits are being fought over in the context of a massive surge in people crossing the US southern border seeking asylum from conditions in their home countries.

A border patrol sign resting near a fence.

Source: Greg Bulla/Unsplash

According to US Border Patrol figures, border encounters peaked at record levels in December at nearly 250,000 encounters. Immigration analysts suspect that border crossings will ramp up in the upcoming months as the weather gets warmer.


Biden’s Role

US President Joe Biden was caught off guard by the sudden surge in migration into the country and has been trying to determine what the right solution will be.

President Joe Biden at the southern border with border patrol agents.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

As this is an election year, any decision Biden makes to crack down on border crossings or make it easier to care for asylum seekers will have a huge weight in who voters decide to vote for.


Americans Disapprove of Biden’s Strategy

An AP-NORC poll conducted in March found that over two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the job Biden is doing in handling the issue of immigration.

Joe Biden’s motorcade of many black cars arriving at the U.S. southern border.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The poll found a majority of Americans want there to be more border patrol agents, to hire more immigration judges, and a reduction in the number of immigrants allowed to seek asylum.


Effects of the Lawsuits

Like what happened previously in Texas, it’s likely that a federal court will put a hold on the law before it can fully go into effect while rulings are being made on the constitutionality of such laws being passed by states.

Close-up of a judge's gavel on a dark wooden desk, emphasizing the gold band around the head of the gavel

Source: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels

It’s not definitely known how the courts will rule, and political groups will likely elevate the issue to the Supreme Court before it can be officially resolved.