Biden administration challenges new Iowa law that targets illegal immigration

The DOJ says the Iowa law violates the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and Foreign Commerce Clause.
Food Assistance Iowa
Posted at 11:43 AM, May 10, 2024

The Department of Justice announced that it is suing the state of Iowa after lawmakers passed legislation making illegal immigration a state crime in certain situations. The new law allows Iowa law enforcement to arrest someone who reentered the U.S. illegally.

The DOJ says that Senate File 2340 violates the federal Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and Foreign Commerce Clause. The DOJ says that the federal government's role is to regulate and enforce immigration laws.

A separate lawsuit challenging the law was filed on Thursday by the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, and the national ACLU on behalf of Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice.

The law makes it a misdemeanor for a person in Iowa if they have denied admission to or have been excluded, deported, or removed from the United States. The charge is upgraded to a felony if the person’s removal was after a conviction of two or more misdemeanors involving drugs, crimes against a person, or both. The offense is also a felony if the person was removed after a felony conviction.

Jimmy Klass outside of his Florida home.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds defended the law in a statement on Thursday.

“As Governor, I have a responsibility to protect the citizens of Iowa. Since President Biden refuses to enforce our nation’s immigration laws – threatening the safety of our citizens – Iowa will step in," she said.

But the Biden administration says the law supersedes the U.S. Constitution. The DOJ noted the 2012 Supreme Court case Arizona v. United States, in which the Obama administration argued that Arizona's law violated the Constitution. The law allowed police to request proof of legal status if they had questions about a person's immigration status. The Supreme Court stripped many of the bill's provisions.

“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.”

Both cases against Iowa were sent to the Southern District of Iowa.