DES MOINES — Nearly 100 people sang and chanted outside a Statehouse committee room hoping to prevent lawmakers from taking action on legislation aimed at curbing so-called “sanctuary cities” policies by Iowa local governments and universities Tuesday.
Despite their efforts, including disruptions that resulted in Iowa State Patrol officers removing some them from the meeting, the protesters were unable to prevent the House Public Safety Committee from voting to send House Study Bill 67 to the full House. That may not be as bad as it seems, according to one lawmaker who called the bill “as crazy as it gets.”
“If they stop this procedure, then the bill doesn’t get debated, and we don’t get it to the floor even to get our voice heard even more,” Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, said. “We’re with you. Trust me.”
Democrats were with the bill’s opponents on a 12-9 party-line vote.
The protesters included members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, the Des Moines Catholic Worker community and the Central Iowa Democratic Socialists of America, who packed the committee room in hopes of stopping action on the bill that would prohibit those sanctuary policies in which state or local officials, agencies or institutions fail to share information or cooperate with federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws.
However, sponsor Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, thinks there is a “tremendous amount of support” for the bill.
“The people who support this effort are not the ones who are going to show up at the Statehouse,” he said. “They are the ones who work every day, they raise their families, they don’t have time to come up here.”
It’s really about respect for the rule of law, Holt said.
As lawmakers voted, the demonstrators shouted, “Stop. This is a racist bill and will destroy the lives of our friends and neighbors. It greases the wheels of Trump’s deportation plan. We need safe communities, integration, not night raids and deportation.” They were escorted from the room by troopers. No arrests were made, according to the patrol.
Earlier, when the room was cleared while Democrats and Republicans went to private caucuses, troopers told demonstrators only 20 people would be allowed in the room when the committee reconvened.
“We’ll make it feel like 200,” one demonstrator shouted.
More than 20 were allowed back in the room, and other demonstrators stood outside the Capitol holding signs against the windows calling for “Justice 4 All,” “No Racism, No Hate” and “No Hate, No Fear.”
According to Iowa CCI, the bill “is just one of what are sure to be many racist bills coming from the Statehouse this session, along with bills that specifically target the immigrant community.”
Holt said his bill targets illegal immigrants who are violent criminals in order to protect Iowans.
“We all know that the vast majority of people that are not in our country legally have just come here for a better life, and they’re contributing in a number of ways in our communities,” Holt said.