Aren't Republicans supposed to be all about local control?
Oh, right, that only applies on issues that work best for them.
Apparently, local policing isn't one such issue. At least, that's the takeaway from legislation working its way through the Iowa House.
Police chiefs oppose the so-called "sanctuary city" bill, that aims to force local police agencies to arrest, hold and question suspected illegal immigrants.
So, too, do fraternal orders of police. Immigration advocates. Law enforcement experts. The list goes on and on.
And yet, the legislation that would sap funding from local departments, for refusing to waste resources on federal immigration raids, still has breath in its lungs. In fact, it passed Iowa Senate in 2017, so only the House stands between it and the governor's desk.
“Sanctuary cities place the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of that of their own citizens," said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, after his subcommittee OKd the bill late last month.
Obviously, there are a few problems here.
For starters, the term "sanctuary city" isn't legally correct. It exists only in partisan talking points, a brash, simplistic way of boiling down highly varied approaches to law enforcement.
Take Scott County, for example, where the Sheriff's Office recently began honoring retainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an already constitutionally questionable move. Sheriff Tim Lane went out of his way to promise that his deputies wouldn't suddenly be hunting for illegal immigrants. And yet, one would be hard-pressed to accuse the Republican Lane of constructing a sanctuary county. But, under this half-baked bill, he would be, unless his deputies were actively participating in immigration raids and asking people about their immigration status. It would be a massive waste of finite resource.
Lane's approach is middle of the road, even by Iowa standards. Departments in Iowa City and Storm Lake, for example, are significantly more hands off. Add to that policies in liberal coastal cities, such as San Francisco, and it becomes increasingly clear that the core term used to justify this unnecessary bit of pandering legislation is without legal meaning nor value.
Thing is, there are solid, fact-based reasons to keep local police agencies out of immigration enforcement. As Lane said, his department has more pressing issues, such as guns and drugs. Plus, immigrant populations -- both legal and illegal -- tend to be disproportionately susceptible to crime and abuse.
Protecting these people equates to protecting the community at large. And it's a job that becomes nearly impossible once an immigration raid or two has destroyed all mutual trust between police and the policed.
This is why cop after cop lined up to oppose this legislation that serves only to placate a rancorous political base.
Few things are more tiresome than this flavor of politically motivated legislative hackery. They're downright unpalatable when flying in the face of expertise and good policy.
No party wraps itself in the flag and lauds men and women in uniform more than the GOP. They cling to a narrow view of patriotism. They grouse about specious affronts to the troops, such as the simple act of protesting at a football game. They label protesters anti-cop and draft legislation, as happened last year in Iowa, wholly intended to crush constitutionally protected dissent.
And yet, as this bill's continued existence shows, some members of Iowa's GOP are more than willing to throw their sacred cows under the bus if it means scoring a few political points.