Groups push back on Iowa lawmakers’ ‘anti-immigrant’ measures

DES MOINES — Immigrants’ rights advocates are pushing back on a flurry of bills in the Iowa Legislature they said would create discriminatory policies targeting migrant communities.

Iowa lawmakers are considering bills that critics claim could potentially destabilize the state’s workforce, create additional barriers for low-income families and threaten support networks for people seeking safety.

Erica Johnson, executive director of the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, said anti-immigrant rhetoric typically heats up in Iowa during election years and legislation soon follows.

“We’re taking a cue from what happened in Florida and in Texas, and in Kansas,” Johnson pointed out. “We’ve been meeting to discuss ways to push back against this anti-immigrant narrative and try to take steps to move our state back toward the idea of ‘Iowa Nice.'”

One bill, House File 2128, would change current state law so noncitizens would no longer be eligible to receive in-state tuition at community colleges and universities. Supporters of the measure argued the current law creates an undue burden on Iowa taxpayers.

Johnson noted advocates are organizing opponents of the measure and bills like it to attend legislative committee meetings, voice opposition and spread a message of inclusion. She added Iowa, as one of just a few states in the country losing population, needs migrants.

“The only possibility our state has for a prosperous future is dependent on immigrants and refugees continuing to move to our state, and populate rural communities and public schools,” Johnson contended. “All of these things that are integral to the health of our communities as Iowans.”

Johnson added 100 people attended a recent rally at the Capitol in Des Moines protesting the bills.