On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law the anti-immigrant bill Senate File 481. This bill was passed through the legislature despite the overwhelming opposition of immigrants, anti-violence advocates, activists, and even law enforcement officials.
The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA) works with 24 victim service programs throughout the state. Victim service advocates from each of these programs have implored legislators in recent weeks and months to abandon SF481, a harmful bill that puts survivors of violent crimes directly at risk. After the bill’s passage in the House and Senate, victim service advocates made calls to Gov. Reynolds’ office asking her to veto the bill. But she did not.
Beth Barnhill, Executive Director for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, released the following statement:
It’s ironic that Governor Reynolds—someone who has repeatedly voiced her support for survivors of sexual violence in the past—should sign this egregious piece of legislation into law during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Shame on you, Governor. Your signature on Senate File 481 undermines any previous support you’ve voiced for survivors. Immigrant communities will suffer as a result of your decision to sign this bill.
Some legislators would have you believe that this bill will somehow create safer communities. In fact, SF 481 has the opposite effect. This legislation puts immigrant survivors of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and human trafficking at risk. Immigrant survivors already face significant barriers when seeking assistance. A victim of crime won’t call the police if they believe they may be deported, or if they believe a family member or a friend may face deportation.
SF 481 subverts public safety and harms community relationships with local law enforcement. Victim service providers routinely work with law enforcement to ensure immigrant survivors know their rights and can access legal protections if they so choose. SF 481 disregards these efforts, thereby denying immigrant survivors’ access to safety and legal protection. What’s more, law enforcement officials actively opposed this bill as it worked its way through the legislature. What kind of message does this send to Iowa’s immigrant communities?
Under your leadership, Governor Reynolds, we believe Iowa must do better. We owe it to survivors, and to the immigrant communities who call our great state home.