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Judge blocks Iowa law allowing state authorities to arrest and deport migrants

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Iowa from enforcing a state law that would allow local authorities to arrest, charge and deport migrants who have previously been denied entry to the United States or who have already been deported from the United States.

The Biden administration sued Iowa last month over the new law, arguing that the federal government “has exclusive authority under federal law to regulate the entry and deportation of noncitizens.” U.S. District Judge Stephen Locher said in issuing the preliminary injunction that the Justice Department was likely to prevail in its case.

“From a political point of view, the new legislation may be justifiable,” wrote Locher in his ruling. “But from a constitutional point of view, it is not.”

Locher was nominated by President Biden to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in 2022. Senate Judiciary Committee

Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, who signed Senate File 2340 into law in April, sharply criticized the judge's decision.

“Iowa's legislation to deter illegal immigration has been BLOCKED – and we are defenseless against the consequences of Biden's open border,” Reynolds wrote on X.

“More crime, more overdose deaths, more human trafficking. And all because Biden isn't doing his job!” she added.

The law, which was set to take effect on July 1, makes it a serious offense for migrants to be in the Hawkeye State, punishable by up to two years in prison if they have a deportation order against them, have already been deported or have been denied entry into the United States at some point.

The offense is upgraded to an aggravated felony if the previous deportation orders against the person were related to convictions for drug offenses, crimes against the person, or convictions for a serious crime of any kind.

The Biden administration filed suit against Iowa over the migrant law last month. AP
Iowa's attorney general plans to appeal the court's ruling. AP

The law prohibits police from arresting suspected migrants who violate the law, for example at places of worship, schools or medical facilities.

Under certain circumstances, a judge can allow arrested persons to leave the country without facing charges, the text of the law states.

Biden's Justice Department has sued Texas and Oklahoma over similar measures.

Texas' broader law, which gives state authorities the power to arrest, detain, prosecute and deport migrants entering the country between ports of entry, was put on hold by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in March.

The Justice Department is also trying to block Oklahoma's law that criminalizes entry into Oklahoma without legal U.S. residency.

The law was due to come into force on July 1. AP

Iowa's Republican chief prosecutor said the state would appeal the injunction.

“By refusing to secure our border, Biden has left the states no choice but to do the work for him,” said Attorney General Brenna Bird wrote on X.

“I will appeal today's court decision, which prevents IA from preventing illegal re-entry and keeping our communities safe,” she added.