Editorial | Iowa needs sanctuary cities

Iowa should pass legislation for sanctuary cities.


DI Editorial Board

To celebrate this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Iowa Legislature should supersede a previously signed law that bans sanctuary cities.

Sanctuary cities, a term popularized during the Trump Administration, are municipalities which have laws that limit cooperation with federal agencies when it comes to the enforcement of immigration laws. Sanctuary laws exist to protect undocumented immigrants.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board recognizes the positive impacts immigrants make to our country, community, and campus. We believe that the status of being an “American” goes beyond the country you were born in and the environment in which you were raised. That’s why we believe Iowa should become a beacon for sanctuary cities.

The argument nativists make against sanctuary cities is that the undocumented immigrants these laws are designed to protect commit crime at higher rates than native-born Americans.

However, these racially coded arguments are not true whatsoever. Empirical work examining the purported link between undocumented immigration and crime finds that immigrants living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission commit crimes at lower rates than their native-born counterparts.

Additionally, when researchers examined crime rates, they found no causal link between the prevalence of “undocumented immigrants” and changes in that city’s crime rates.

There are also moral and practical reasons for a municipality to become a sanctuary city. The U.S. is a nation built by immigrants, most of whom escaped poverty and persecution. These Central and Latin American migrants, who are facetiously branded as criminals, are coming to America for the same reasons as other immigrant groups.

Migrants, especially those who take the risk of crossing borders without documentation, come to the U.S. seeking opportunities many native-born Iowans take for granted. Job opportunities, family reunification, education, political and religious freedom, and escaping war or famine are all reasons why someone may choose to leave their homeland, family, and culture behind.

Iowa itself has a proud tradition of accepting immigrants looking for better opportunities. This includes Southeast Asian refugees who moved to Iowa during the 1970s and Sudanese refugees in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

Practically speaking, welcoming immigrants has economic benefits for a municipality, as immigrants regularly punch above their weight and contribute more revenue to the economy than it costs to take care of them.

This is exemplified by the fact that immigrants increase the size of the labor force, which in turn increases economic productivity because immigrants make the labor market more competitive. As a result, native-born workers are encouraged to upgrade their skills and increase productivity.

This process can be quantified, as econometric analysis indicates that immigration leads native workers to increase their productivity by $5-10 billion a year.

In other words, if Iowa cities became more receptive to immigrants, whether documented or not, their economic prospects could dramatically improve.

It is often said the U.S. is a nation of immigrants. As a nation, we are alway willing to give people in need a helping hand no matter the circumstances. In turn, these immigrants positively contribute to our society, which makes our union more perfect.

For these reasons, it is imperative for the Iowa legislature to allow for the existence of sanctuary cities and protect undocumented immigrants. They too are Americans.

Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the DI Editorial Board and not the opinion of the publisher, Student Publications Inc., or the University of Iowa. Editorial board members are Shahab Khan, Hannah Pinski, Sophia Meador, and Yasmina Sahir.