Disgusting. Racist. Profiling. Those are just a few of the words Democrat Sen. Tony Bisignano used to describe Senate File 406 during Monday’s subcommittee. Despite Bisignano’s hyperbole, Republican Senators Dan Dawson and Zach Whiting signed off on the bill, recommending passage with an amendment.
Republican Sen. Jim Carlin introduced the legislation, which relates to nonresident alien public offense data collection and analysis.
“Number one, I want to be able to know what the statistics really are and what’s the truth,” Carlin said. “Is it or is it not a problem in Iowa? If you want to tell us we don’t need a wall, alright, I can’t do that nationally. But in Iowa I can find out how many murders, rapes, kidnappings — there are crimes like this — sex trafficking, drug trafficking, how many drug offenses we have. There’s a pipeline in Iowa for drugs.”
The bill provides each state or local law enforcement agency subject to Code chapter 27A must collect data relating to the commission of public offenses by nonresident aliens as defined in Code section 9I.1.
Data collected shall include whether a citation was issued or an arrest was made, the type of citation issued or the basis for the arrest, whether the public offense was a misdemeanor or felony, whether the public offense was committed against another person, injuries sustained by another person or a law enforcement officer as a result of the public offense and the type of property seized pursuant to the arrest.
The data would be submitted to the division of criminal and juvenile justice planning of the Department of Human Rights. The division shall establish and maintain a nonresident alien public offense research project to conduct analyses and evaluate the public offense data submitted to the division by state and local law enforcement agencies.
Carlin said he knew critics would take aim at him regarding the bill.
“I know people are going to say, ‘well, you’re a racist,'” Carlin said. “Racism has nothing to do with this. This is finding out what the truth is. You can’t be so politically correct that you ignore the truth and the reality that you’re faced with. The taxpayers have a right to know what the truth is.”
Even the bill’s critics should be supportive for one reason, Carlin said.
“It may well be that it’s not much of a problem and the people who say it’s not a problem, this may very well support them,” he said. “Who knows? But at least we’ll know what the truth is.”
It’s the next step, Carlin said, after the legislature passed last year’s sanctuary cities and counties bill. Nationally, illegal aliens make up 30 percent of all federal felony crime, Carlin said.
This bill would not apply to traffic stops. Carlin said it’d have to be a serious misdemeanor or higher.
Just about everyone in the room spoke against the bill.
Steve Michael, the administrator for the Division of Criminal Juvenile Justice Planning, said if the data is collected and it goes through the courts system, the information would be easily accessible.
Laura Hessburg of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence spoke against the bill.
“I believe it singles out a classification of people,” Hessburg said. “You’d essentially have to profile people to get this information. We feel it’s unnecessary.”
The ACLU’s Daniel Zeno said the bill would apply to everyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.
“There’s sort of this assumption that people are immigrants commit crimes, so let’s see how many crimes they commit,” Zeno said. “This sort of profiling of a specific category of people we believe is not something Iowa should be doing. This could lead to even more racial profiling, so we don’t think this is a good idea. We don’t think specifically targeting immigrants in the same way if we were going to collect data on the number of black people who commit crimes, we’d oppose that as well. I hope it doesn’t go anywhere further than this meeting.”
Susan Cameron Daemen of the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association started the subcommittee as being undecided. By the end she had changed to registered against over concerns of profiling.
Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference opposed the bill, sharing the concerns of the ACLU. He also said they’re opposed because of what they hear in scripture.
“We really shouldn’t treat aliens any differently than ourselves in terms of data collection,” he said.
Connie Ryan of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund said the bill makes no sense.
“It does not seem like it is in the nature of Iowa that we would want to target a specific group of people,” Ryan said.
Bisignano delivered scathing remarks regarding the bill.
“It’s meant for profiling,” he said. “This bill isn’t something that’s going to be an accidental action, it’s intended to do what these words say to do, and it’s sad that this bill is here. It really serves no purpose.”
With other things happening during funnel week, Bisignano said this bill shouldn’t be among the candidates for future consideration.
“This general assembly has many big things to do and this is not one of them,” he said. “The disturbing thing is that this is the second time in two years that a bill of this nature has come before us.”
The lone supporter of the bill, Bisignano said, is the Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
“Who are they?” he asked. “They never show up. They never contact anybody. But yet they’re the only ones who ever register for these discriminatory, bad bills. I wish they would because I’d like them to defend themselves and why they do support this.”
Dawson said his only concerns with the bill dealt with extracting the information during a traffic stop, which is cause for the future amendment.
“I’d be happy to support this bill and continue the conversation forward,” Dawson said.
Whiting said the FBI uses data collection already. He disagreed that the bill was profiling anyone. In fact, he said, the bill would relate to any person who isn’t a U.S. citizen regardless of race.
Bisignano resumed his talking points after the Republican senators wrapped up their statements. He said people already know illegal immigrants do not commit more crime.
“I think statistically it’s wrong, but I think morally it’s wrong because we keep putting this out there,” Bisignano said. “If we put things out long enough, that’s when you get these uninformed, uneducated people who buy in because we’re doing this.”
The bill, which had nothing to do with race and everything to do with legal status, then had race injected into it.
“You can’t become a united society as long as you keep dividing it by race and ethnicity and sexual orientation,” Bisignano said. “That’s what is hurting this society. I don’t get how you can’t say this is just a profiling bill because you have to profile to get the information.”
Whiting stressed the data collection would apply to illegals who are white just as much as it would apply to any other illegal alien.
“If Tony Blair overstayed his visa and was teaching at a university and got arrested for an OWI in Iowa he’d still be subject to this reporting as much as anyone else,” Whiting said. “I think it’s unfortunate that it is targeted to a specific race or category of people other than the category of people who fall under the definition of 9I.1.”
Carlin said the bill does exactly what the government is supposed to do.
“This is not about hatred. This is a matter of national security and it’s a matter of government’s first duty,” he said.